Alen Hallilovic became one of many players touted as the successor to the superstar Lionel Messi on the world of football. This young attacking midfielder was formerly claimed as ‘The Next Messi’ after a stunning performance while defending Dinamo Zagreb.
His playing style is often compared to the Barcelona legend. Hallilovic, the 169-centimeter player, has an unstoppable dribble speed and accurate left-footed kicks.
Along with his habit to pick up the ball and leading it forward quickly, or cutting from the right side of the game to the edge of the opponent’s penalty box, Halilovic becomes a big threat.
This young Croatian is also expected to be the next Balkan superstar. Hallilovic went back and forth to the Dinamo Zagreb senior team at the age of 16 and immediately became a record-breaking and national children’s poster.
Debuting at the ‘Eternal Derby’ which brought Dynamo Zagreb and Hajduk Split together, he became the youngest debutant in Dynamo Zagreb’s history for debuting at the age of 16 years and 101 days.
His records kept popping up as he became Croatia’s youngest goalscorer, the Dynamo Zagreb’s youngest player to appear in the Champions League and the second-youngest player to play in the history of the Champions League competition.
Hallilovic also made his debut for the Croatian national team at a very young age of 16, making him the youngest debutant in the Croatian history, when he played with Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic in a friendly match against Portugal.
With his brilliant performance and several records, he attracted top European clubs such as Manchester City, Manchester United, and Barcelona.
When Barcelona expressed their interest, Sead Halilovic, Alen’s father, who also acted as his manager, did not hesitate to say yes. Sead brought his whole family to move from Zagreb to Catalan.
Sead was so convinced that playing in Barcelona and becoming a teammate of Messi was such a beautiful destiny for Hallilovic, who was then 18 years old. In July 2014, Halilovic set foot in Barcelona. There he wanted to play with his idol, Lionel Messi.
In Barcelona, Halilovic did not immediately play in the first team. Like other young players, he was placed in Barcelona B, a place where his name began to be discussed as a great talent in the Blaugrana camp.
With the talent he had at the time, the opportunity to replace Lionel Messi’s role in Barcelona was wide open.
Spending a year at Barcelona B, Halilović appeared prominently for the team. However, his time at Barcelona B was still marred by controversy behind the scenes. Club officials in Barcelona were less impressed when Hallilovic’s father, Sead Halilović, hired a private football coach for young Hallilovic.
This not only ruined the plans of Barcelona B manager–Eusebio but also played an important role in hampering Halilović’s development. For Halilović, balancing the needs of two very different football minds was certainly a heavy burden to be carried out.
The influence of Sead Hallilovic on his son was indeed very large. Sead interfered too far in determining his son’s career. Claiming that his son was suitable enough to play in the senior team, he went to management to express his intentions.
Unfortunately, there was no available ration for his son. Halilovic was asked to spend the season at Barcelona B, but Sead was refused to let his son playing back at Barcelona B.
Halilovic was then sent to Sporting Gijon on loan. He was happy with Gijon because he got his debut in La Liga and was allowed to play 36 times and scored three goals. He also helped to save Gijon from relegation.
Along with Gijon, Hallilovic had scored 5 goals and made 5 assists. He also hoped that his contribution during strengthening Gijon could make Barcelona took him back to play in the 2016/17 season.
Unfortunately, his impressive records were not enough to convince Barcelona to take him back. With a transfer policy that no longer prioritized players from young teams, Halilovic was seen as a surplus. Eventually, he was sold to the German club, Hamburg SV in the early 2016/17 season.
Halilovic was transferred for 5 million euros or around Rp. 80 billion and was contracted for four years by Hamburg. He was also bound by a clause that Barcelona had the right to bring him back at a double price which came into effect after two seasons.
Halilović’s career in Hamburg began well under the direction of Bruno Labbadia. The German coach was giving him more than plenty of opportunities to secure himself in Hamburg’s starting XI.
Unfortunately, Labbadia had to be fired after failing to lift Hamburg’s performance in a month and a half of the 2016-17 Bundesliga trip. His departure on September 25 was then replaced by Markus Gisdol.
Since then, the career of Alen Hallilovic was fading away. The new Hamburg coach quickly got rid of players who did not fit into his tactical approach. Gisdol also felt that Halilović and his bodyguards who were always present disturbed the dressing room.
Eventually, the 21-year-old Hallilovic did not get the trust of the coach. He then asked the management of Hamburg to release him. He only played a total of 7 games with Hamburg in which five of them were started from the bench.
In the second round of the Bundesliga competition, Hamburg decided to lend him back to Spain. This time, Las Palmas became the next port of Hallilovic for a year and a half on loan.
Playing in 18 matches in the second half of the 2016/17 season, Halilovic lived it in a way that was less convincing in the following season. He suffered a knee injury that kept him out for a long time, and that was why he only appeared as many as 20 matches throughout the season and only scored 2 goals.
Las Palmas did not tie him up as a permanent player. But as life is full of second chances, Halilovic met his luck when AC Milan expressed their interest at the end of the season.
In July 2018, Hallilovic officially joined AC Milan on a free transfer and signed a three-year contract. In Milan, Hallilovic failed to show his quality. He often filled the bench. Together with the Rossoneri, Hallilovic only appeared in 3 matches.
Then in early 2019, AC Milan loaned Hallilovic to Standard Liege, where his career was getting better because he appeared in 14 matches in all competitions in five months. But instead of returning to strengthen AC Milan, Hallilovic was again on loan to the Dutch Club, Hereenven for the 2019/20 season.
Had been a star in his teens and called as Messi from Croatia, now Alen Hallilovic must accept the bitter truth. His career did not go as beautiful as he had dreamed of. At the age of 23, Hallilovic could still show him off as if this is not his end.