Amidst UEFA’s official ruling yesterday confirming Milan’s disqualification from the upcoming Europa League campaign for breaching Financial Fair Play rules, along with constant rumours swirling over a possible majority takeover from Mediacom chairman Rocco Commisso, the transfer market was the last thing on the minds of Rossoneri supporters.
Yet, in the wee hours of the night, out of nowhere, sudden reports of Milan completing their first signing of the summer struck the web as Gianluca Di Marzio confirmed Croatian midfielder Alen Halilović was already in Milano and ready to undergo medicals ahead of his move to the club.While the fine details of the deal are yet to be defined at this time, Di Marzio insists it will be a three-year contract for the 22-year old who hopes to find some career stability in an otherwise turbulent period for the seven-time Champions League winners.
Halilović, an attacking midfielder, came up through the Dinamo Zagreb ranks in Croatia before Barcelona secured his signature in May of 2014 for an estimated €2,2 million. Ushering him into the revered ‘La Masia’ system, the Croat would make headway in the football world by impressing for Barcelona’s B side and propelling himself to the forefront as one of the game’s top youngsters.
After a season-long loan spell in 2015-16 at Sporting Gijon in which he tallied 5 goals and 5 assists over 37 La Liga appearances, Halilović was subsequently sold off to Hamburg for €5,5 million, with the Catalan club inserting a €10 million buy-back clause as insurance in the event he erupted. However, the shaggy-haired Croatian failed to receive substantial minutes in an otherwise difficult situation surrounding the bench, prompting the German outfit to send him back to Spain with Las Palmas on an 18-month loan deal in hopes that he’d find his footing in familiar territory.
Last season, Halilovic showed in spurts why he was so highly-rated just a short time ago, though an ankle injury early on derailed what could have been a breakout term. Skilled, creative, yet raw, the Croatian international seems to be stalling a bit on his progression despite boasting obvious talent – and maybe that is where sporting director Massimiliano Mirabelli believes he is worth taking a flyer on.
Assuming Halilović makes the Italy switch for an estimated €5-8 million, it’s hard to argue against the move when you consider the potential upside and value.
By no means is the youngster the impact player Milan and manager Gennaro Gattuso need to move the needle and largely enhance the attack which has documented concerns. However, if Fabio Borini is sold to any one of the possible suitors and Halilović comes in at marginal cost, this would be a decent piece of business when you consider the package he possesses.
Halilović has demonstrated the qualities to play either out wide or centrally as a playmaker, with the necessary speed and dribbling ability to break down defenders – a profile Milan are sorely lacking. In the final third, specifically at Gijon, he displayed the end product required to support his strikers which would aid the likes of Patrick Cutrone who is active but does rely on that influencing presence to dispatch the final pass to run in behind defenders. In any case, it will be interesting to see whether or not Halilović can adapt to a technical and physical league like Serie A.
For Halilović, who has endured his share of injuries, being able to exhibit the qualities that made him a highly-touted prospect without any restraint could perhaps be helped by Gattuso’s ability to bring the fighter’s mentality out in his men. However, it is all a bit premature at this point to say how the Milan boss can influence the Croat.
Alen’s father Saed’s had a big say in his son’s future thus far, but with his career in search of direction, full fitness and consistent reps, perhaps a switch to the fashion capital of the world could be just what Halilović needs to launch himself into the limelight.
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