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‘Croatian Messi’ Alen Halilovic turns heads in Luis Enrique’s Barcelona debut

first_img1 The first fixture of the pre-season is always a strange one for FC Barcelona. The majority of the early summer squads tend to be made up of fringe and youth players, and the high concentration of Camp Nou stars participating at the World Cup has only further depleted the list of first team regulars available for duty this week.A golden opportunity was handed to the youngsters participating in Luis Enrique’s debut game in charge of the Barcelona seniors therefore, and while the 1-0 Catalan victory over Recreativo was discreet in many ways, a few players stood out above the rest. None more so than Alen Halilovic, who in 45 minutes showed enough to suggest he’s likely to outgrow Barcelona B sooner rather than later.Though barely 18-years-old, competition was fierce for Alen Halilovic’s signature when he made the decision to leave Dinamo Zagreb earlier this year. With more than 50 first team games under his belt, the playmaker’s reputation was significant enough to suggest he would join one of the bigger sides in Europe, but in opting for the Camp Nou in March, the youngster showed vision beyond his years. There is an endless list of developing talents tempted by big money contracts from major European clubs who ultimately do little more than hoover up players en-masse only to disregard them at a later date, but Halilovic’s move to Barcelona looks much more calculated. Not only do the Catalans have an excellent record of developing youngsters into the finished article, capable of either playing for their first team or at the top level elsewhere, but their deal for the Croatian also included the requirement that he should play first with Barcelona B, before being promoted to the seniors at the club’s discretion.Whoever advises Halilovic is advising him well, a refreshing turn of events in this day and age. By starting with Barcelona B, the Croatian can acclimatise to both the demands of Spanish football and the demands of Barcelona’s system, with the latter being a sticking point even for experienced senior players at a much more advanced stage in their career than the 18-year-old. If and when he outgrows the Liga Adelante, he will be promoted to the Barcelona senior squad, armed with the understanding necessary to give establishing himself in the first team a genuine shot. Halilovic’s showing in Huelva suggests that opportunity will arrive, provided he applies himself.From the start the playmaker was bright. Confident and willing to take players on, he frequently attempted dribbles and rarely lost the ball, happy to receive under pressure then either beat his marker or pick out a team mate with a well-weighted pass. His movement off the ball, equally, was excellent, showing an understanding of both where his companions were placed and where he needed to move accordingly, something that must largely have come from natural intuition given the Croatian has spent little time training as a Barcelona player. The youngster even managed to provide a rare goal threat in a first half featuring sparse opportunities in that regard.He may only have lasted 45 minutes, but it was enough for both Catalan radio and social media to light up in appreciation of the new signing. More than one commentator even compared his dribbling to a young Lionel Messi, and while that’s symptomatic of our desire to relate footballers to others of a much greater stature without genuine justification (Halilovic has previously been labelled ‘the Croatian Messi’ despite the obvious disparity in level), it is true that the Croatian’s talent for both shielding and manipulating the ball at pace is a rarity even at Barcelona.It’s early days, and time will tell if Halilovic really has what it takes to make the leap up and become a Barcelona regular. Great dribbling in a pre-season game is one thing, but learning the patience required to play in an attacking position for the Blaugrana – where it’s often about choosing not to do something and waiting for the perfect opportunity rather than forcing the issue – is another. Encouragingly, the playmaker has already shown signs which indicate he has the capacity to learn what is necessary to adapt to the Camp Nou, and if he can make the most of a privileged education with the B team, both the player and his new club could benefit immeasurably in the near future. Luis Enrique was impressed by Alen Halilovic in his Barcelona debut, but keen to avoid unrealistic expectations of the youngster last_img read more

STAR SPECIALS Golden Globes

first_imgBriton Ridley Scott To Land Best Director – Say Patriotic Bookmakers Star Sports[dropcap]U[/dropcap]pmarket bookmakers Star Stars are waving the British flag with pride ahead of this weekend’s Golden Globes ceremony in Beverley Hills, and are strongly tipping Geordie Ridley Scott (right) to pick up the Best Director gong for The Martian. The 78 year old director of Blade Runner and Alien has never won a Golden Globe despite a glittering Hollywood career dating back to the 1960’s and two previous nominations.Star Sports’ Entertainment Trader Jamie Loughead said “we’ve been saying all winter The Martian offers Ridley his best chance yet of picking up an Oscar, and winning a Globe will set him well on his way to do that. The Martian is not just another space adventure movie, there’s real depth to Matt Damon’s character and is loved by the critics. I wouldn’t recommend customers back Ridley with us though, we are the shortest price in the industry! We’d be happy to take bets on any other nominees though as we’ve pushed their prices right out!”He added “Elsewhere Spotlight looks a cert for Globes Best Picture, and Leonardo DiCaprio can’t be beaten for Best Actor for his role in The Revenant. We suspect the biggest talking point of the night will be what host Ricky Gervais says to offend the world’s most glamourous luvvies! We’re offering 5/1 that he attacks Donald Trump, Charlie Sheen and Bill Cosby at some point in the awards… which is probably giving money away!”Ricky Gervais Globes SpecialTo attack (mention!) Donald Trump, Bill Cosby and Charlie Sheen while hosting the Golden Globes 5/1(Gervais must mention all three)Best DirectorRidley Scott 5/6Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu 3/1George Miller 4/1Tom McCarthy 5/1Todd Haynes 20/1Best PictureSpotlight 1/5The Revenant 5/1Carol 10/1Mad Max: Fury Road 20/1Room 25/1Best Actor – DramaLeonardo DiCaprio 1/9Michael Fassbender 6/1Eddie Redmayne 16/1Bryan Cranston 25/1Will Smith 50/1Best Actress –DramaBrie Larson 4/9Cate Blanchett 4/1Saoirse Ronan 5/1Rooney Mara 12/1Alicia Vikander 20/1What’s your view? CALL STAR SPORTS 08000 521 321last_img read more