Barcelona made a huge statement for the future by signing Croatian midfielder Alen Halilovic in May 2014. The teenager joined from Dinamo Zagreb, with the Catalans quick to snatch him up after he made a name for himself in his home country's top flight.
Halilovic, who could start for many European clubs, will spend this season at Barcelona B. Understandably, many Barcelona fans may be wondering what they should expect from the 18-year-old this season. Though he may be a signing for the future, he will get a ton of exposure this season for fans to enjoy.
To begin with, Halilovic is well beyond the development of a reserve team. True, Barcelona B is a very talented side, but the Croatian already has a ton of first team experience.
It is expected that Halilovic will play a key role for the Catalan reserve team, and will likely start as many games as possible.
The 18-year-old may be better than any other player in the Segunda division, meaning he will be shining every week. Most fans do not watch Barcelona B play very often, but that could all change this season.
In all honesty, Halilovic is likely spending his first year with the reserve side mostly to learn the language and culture of the club. Putting him directly into the first team could be dangerous, but this way he can transition smoothly.
That being said, Halilovic will be doing much more than simply being the star of Barcelona B. The 18-year-old will play some for the first team this year as well.
With such a full schedule, Barcelona has the luxury of handing playing time to younger stars every so often. La Masia products like Adama Traore and Jean Marie Dongou were able to see minutes last year, and surely Halilovic will join that cast this season.
As Barcelona takes on weaker opposition in the Copa del Rey, and possibly irrelevant matches in the Champions League, fans should expect to see Halilovic called up to showcase his skill.
The Croatian teenager is just too talented to spend the whole campaign in the lower levels, and it is also important to remember that he has joined the club to be a part of the team’s future. To have an impact down the road, Halilovic needs to start gaining experience now.
That being said, Halilovic could likely be promoted next summer.
After a year of learning the club and being handed a few chances, the star midfielder will certainly deserve a permanent spot in the first team. The opportunity to learn from the likes of Andres Iniesta and fellow Croatian Ivan Rakitic is too vital to miss out on, and he is surely going to be practicing with the first team quite a bit this year.
No one can doubt his ability. Halilovic can dribble through defenses, pass the ball with vision beyond his years and plays like a seasoned footballer. His talent may still be raw, but his maturity and experience are incredible for someone his age.
Halilovic has all the talent and potential needed to become one of the best midfielders in Europe. Barcelona must be wise in how they transition him into the team, but it is clear that fans will be seeing a good bit of the 18-year-old this season.
So just what should fans expect from Halilovic this season? He is going to absolutely light up the second division while making a constant push for the first team.
He was not purchased to be a reserve team player. Halilovic is already on the cusp of the first team and fans should be very excited about his future. It all starts now for the Croatian wonderkid.
How far can Alen Halilovic go? Will the Croatian see enough time with the first team this season? Leave your thoughts and comments below!