The renaissance of Alen Halilovic
The Croatian midfielder has been one of the stand-out players of Las Palmas' pre-season. "He has improved," says Manuel Márquez Roca.
When Alen Halilovic was on loan at Sporting Gijón, it was said of the Croatia international that he had all the essence and skill of an extraordinary player but also carried a weight around his neck: the indolence of those with a superiority complex.
That has been the overriding sensation surrounding Halilovic since he left Croatia. Barcelona signed the teenager from Dinamo Zagreb on a five-year deal in 2014 but the arrangement did not flourish. After spending a season in the reserves Barça sent Halilovic on loan to Sporting in order to acquire a work ethic. A year and half later the Camp Nou board finally threw in the towel and sold the midfielder to Hamburg.
Halilovic also failed to settle in the Bundesliga and, in search of the game time he was not earning at the Volksparkstadion, he moved to Las Palmas on an 18-month loan deal. However, alongside another January 2017 arrival in PSG outcast Jesé, Halilovic failed to shine in LaLiga, showing the occasional flash of his undoubted talent but little in the way of consistency. “He is capable of the best, of doing things that nobody else can do, but then he’ll disappear for weeks at a time,” analysts at Sporting opined.
After his precocious debut in 2012, when he was 16 years old and became Dinamo’s youngest-ever player, Halilovic has failed to make an impact at any of his subsequent destinations. But there are signs that this season could be different. Now 21, Halilovic knows he has a full season to bed in at Las Palmas and realize his potential. In the club’s pre-season match against Balompédica Linense on Saturday, Halilovic’s goal-scoring performance drew praise from his manager, Manolo Márquez, not only for the quality of his strike but his all-round application: “He’s playing well because when he loses the ball he fights to get it back. He has improved.”
Las Palmas have been enjoying a solid pre-season and alongside Boateng, who has shown “touches of class, although he lacks fitness [after injury],” according to Márquez, Halilovic has been displaying some of the talent that had half of Europe after his signature three years ago. The club will hope that he carries his pre-season form into the Liga kick-off and continues his renaissance throughout the campaign.