Barcelona have announced the signing of 17-year-old attacking midfielder Alen Halilovic from Dinamo Zagreb.
Confirmation of the deal for the young Croatian was posted on the club's official Twitter account:
Earlier in the month Barca manager Gerardo Martino had confirmed his club's intention to capture the player. Sky Sports reported at the time that the Camp Nou boss had said: "These negotiations, or the bid to sign this player, started in 2010. He's coming here to play for the B team."
The teenage prodigy has been dubbed the "Balkan Messi," and it appears that the Catalan club have had their eye on him for a few years.
According to Barca's official website, the deal is good for five years.
Speaking to the official site, Halilovic offered his thoughts on the transfer:
I am delighted and it’s hard to find the words to describe how I feel. Thank you very much to Dynamo, who will always be my first love and the club where my dreams started coming true. I would like to thank all the Dynamo youth coaches and all of the fans. Of course, Barcelona is something special, I have loved the club since I was a kid and it will be an honour to be able to play for Barça. But before that, I want to win the double with Dynamo and then I’ll start concentrating on my new club.
Halilovic has made nine starts for his club domestically this season and scored three times, per WhoScored.com.
The player likes to come from the right-hand side of the attack and very much mirrors the attributes of Lionel Messi, hence the comparisons.
Due to his stature and nationality he has also been described as "the new Luka Modric," as reported by Simon Jones of the Daily Mail in 2013.
Halilovic's signing shows Barcelona's intent to secure the next generation of great footballers for the Camp Nou. Though very young, the player could be pushing for a first-team start in a year or two as the legs of Xavi and Andres Iniesta gain more mileage.
Whereas teams like Manchester United have allowed their best talent to age without providing youthful replacements, Barcelona have moved to prevent this scenario happening to them.
How long will it be before Alen Halilovic is in Barcelona's first team?
Barca's competitive B team is a great place for players to cut their teeth, and the Croatian will be indoctrinated into the Catalan football philosophy away from the glare of the superstar first team. There he can grow and technically be developed to the highest level, fully preparing him for the expectations demanded in La Liga.
Messi and Company will have to watch their backs as the next generation of European super-talent makes its way toward the summit of top-level football.