x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

‘Balkan Messi’ Halilovic set to join Barcelona

Croatia teenager Alen Halilovic is poised to join Barcelona from Dynamo Zagreb and will initially play for the club’s B team.

Croatia’s Alen Halilovic, left, in action against Uzbekistan in Fujairah, UAE on October 24, 2013 during the Fifa Under 17 World Cup. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Croatia’s Alen Halilovic, left, in action against Uzbekistan in Fujairah, UAE on October 24, 2013 during the Fifa Under 17 World Cup. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

BARCELONA // Croatia teenager Alen Halilovic is poised to join Barcelona from Dynamo Zagreb and will initially play for the club’s B team, coach Gerardo Martino said on Saturday.

The 17-year-old attacking midfielder, dubbed the “Balkan Messi” after Barca’s Argentina forward Lionel Messi, has made three appearances for Croatia and is seen as the country’s next outstanding player.

He was part of the Croatia team that went out at the group stages of last year’s Fifa Under 17 World Cup in the UAE, scoring once.

“These negotiations, or the bid to sign this player, started in 2010,” Martino said ahead of Sunday’s La Liga game at home to promoted Almeria. “He is coming here to play for the B team.”

Barca are looking to get back to winning ways against Almeria after they slipped to a surprise 3-1 defeat at Real Sociedad last weekend that allowed Real Madrid to open a three-point lead at the top.

Real, who play at city rivals Atletico in Sunday’s Madrid derby, have 63 points with 13 games left, with Barca and Atletico tied on 60.

Martino has leftback Jordi Alba available after injury, although Spain teammate Gerard Pique, a centre-back, is out with a calf problem.

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