We have spoken to Aleksandar Holiga, Croatian football journalist, about new Barcelona signing, Alen Halilović.
You've written for Bleacher Report that many say that Halilovic is the new Messi. But do You think so? Do You think he has the spark Messi had at his age?
No. I don't think there is another Messi anywhere nor there ever will be – the Argentine is one of a kind. Halilovic is only somewhat similar in playing style and he might end up playing in the same position eventually. He's special and has a chance to develop into one of the best players in the world, but he'll never be a 'new Messi'.
Do You think that his physical look, still weak and little, affected his decision to join Barcelona, where there are a lot of similar players?
Possibly, but he's also a Barcelona fan and wanted to try his luck there rather than anywhere else.
How would You shortly describe his style of playing?
He has that something that only top players possess – the ability to see a move or two ahead of the others. He has excellent first touch, a killer pass and a really good shot (both strong from outside the box and those soft 'Messi chips' that go just over the keeper) and his space awareness is exceptional. He needs better, more intelligent team mates around him to prosper and develop further and his defensive play needs a lot of work because it's virtually non-existant now.
And if You should choose just one word to describe him?
Is there a possibility he will not adapt in Spain? Top prospects from Croatia never went there so it is something completely new. A new direction.
Of course there is that possibility and it's a very realistic one. In Barcelona, talent is not enough – you have to work extemely hard to keep improving. I can't tell whether he has that desire in him or not – if he does, I'm sure he'll be a success. If not, he will have no one to blame but himself.
How high are his chances to be in World Cup team?
Second to none. Halilovic was called up by previous Croatia manager Igor Stimac, altough he wasn't even playing for Dinamo regularly at the time. He didn't deserve that then – and he still hasn't deserved it. Our new manager Niko Kovac was very clear about that. Besides, reports say Barcelona insist that he begins working on a special program as soon as the season in Croatia ends, in order to smoothen his transition to Spanish football and the Barca way. Playing (or just travelling with the team) at the World Cup isn't a part of that program. He'll get his chance in the future – now he wouldn't be able to add any new value to the team anyway.