A Progress Report on Sporting Gijon's Barcelona Loanee Alen Halilovic

Rik Sharma@@riksharma_Featured ColumnistNovember 3, 2015

GIJON, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 01:  Halilovic of Real Sporting de Gijon reacts during the La Liga match between Real Sporting de Gijon and Malaga CF at Estadio El Molinon on November 1, 2015 in Gijon, Spain.  (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)
Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Alen Halilovic is not so much progressing at Sporting Gijon as bounding forward, taking huge leaps towards his potential, looking more impressive with every game he plays.

The Croatian is projected to have a big future, and if he keeps improving at the same rate, then there is little doubt he will become a Barcelona first-team player.

In the summer, Barcelona looked for a club the 19-year-old could develop at, not wanting him to play in the second division with their B team, because it wouldn’t help his progression as a footballer.

GIJON, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 01: Halilovic (C) of Real Sporting de Gijon duels for the ball with Weligton and Arthur Boka (R) of Malaga CF during the La Liga match between Real Sporting de Gijon and Malaga CF at Estadio El Molinon on November 1, 2015 in Gijon,
Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Because of his huge potential, the club realised they needed to do everything they could to ensure he got as much football as possible.

Thus, they demanded a clause be inserted into any prospective loan deal for the midfielder which ensured he plays 60 per cent of games. That ended up being what scuppered a potential spell at Hamburg, per Albert Roge of Sport.

Roge wrote:

It is a condition that is making a loan deal difficult, and at the moment no team have accepted it, with Hamburg making it official that they had rejected the chance due to this reason.

The truth is that it is tough for a manager to accept that a player will play 60 percent of the season by decree. Minutes have to be won in training sessions and this clause could cause a bad atmosphere in the dressing room if some players are seen to have privileges.

On Barca's part, it is understandable that they are using the amount of minutes as a criteria. Luis Enrique knows that Halilovic has great potential, and will only be able to show it with competitive minutes.

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Eventually, they settled on a deal with Sporting, no doubt helped by the good relationship shared between Barcelona coach Luis Enrique and Gijon boss Abelardo Fernandez.

The pair had played together at the Camp Nou for many seasons and retain a close relationship.

Halilovic moved to Sporting, hoping to become an important part of the team. He has done more than that.

GIJON, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 01:  Halilovic of Real Sporting de Gijon celebrates after scoring during the La Liga match between Real Sporting de Gijon and Malaga CF at Estadio El Molinon on November 1, 2015 in Gijon, Spain.  (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/
Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

The teenager is now fundamental to Sporting’s game, with most plays going through him. At such a tender age, he is starting to dominate La Liga matches—no mean feat at all.

His influence on the side is not just dictated by his goal and assist tallies, but they are a concrete way of showing he is making a difference.

While playing with Barcelona B last season, he showed plenty of promise but wasn’t often the man to decide the outcome of a game. That has changed.

He has started eight games for his new side, scoring twice and making three goals directly for his team-mates, while also contributing instrumentally to others.

BILBAO, SPAIN - OCTOBER 26:  Mikel San Jose of Athletic Club duels for the ball with Halilovic of Real Sporting de Gijon during the La Liga match between Athletic Club and Real Sporting de Gijon at San Mames Stadium on October 26, 2015 in Bilbao, Spain.
Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Haliovic’s most recent strike came at the weekend, his strike separating Sporting and Malaga, the only goal of the game. Three precious points for the Asturians.

Sergio Alvarez cut the ball back and there was Halilovic, arriving at the perfect moment to apply the finishing touch. He ghosted into the area like a Frank Lampard, but his technique and vision are more parallel to his countryman, Luka Modric.

Some have even dared to compare him, stylistically, to Lionel Messi. That may, understandably, raise eyebrows, but there’s something the youngster’s movement and body shape which is reminiscent of the Argentinian.

Halilovic has an extremely aggressive dribble style, which helps him cut through opposition defences like a hot knife through butter, and where have we seen that before?

Alen Halilovic of FC Barcelona during the Joan Gamper Trophy match between Barcelona and AS Roma on August 5, 2015 at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain.(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images)
VI-Images/Getty Images

He has been a crucial part of Sporting's efforts in their away wins over Deportivo de la Coruna and Espanyol, as well as helping them launch a spectacular fight back from two goals down to draw 3-3 with Granada.

In Barcelona, they will be watching the sharp and steep progress of Halilovic and wonder if he will be ready to fight for a place in the first team as soon as next season.

If there are any setbacks to Rafinha Alcantara’s injury recovery, the answer to that question may be yes.