Alen Halilović has departed the Camp Nou during the busiest summer transfer season in recent Barcelona history. In most cases, being sold to another club signifies that a player’s relationship with their former club has effectively ended, but does that normality ring true in Halilović’s case?
Barcelona purchased Halilović from Dinamo Zagreb for €5 million. With Zagreb, he climbed up the youth academy ranks to make a debut for the senior team at the record-setting tender age of 16. After signing with Barcelona, he played for Barcelona B under Eusebio's guidance, performing to a consistently good standard despite the fact his team's results were not always as good as Cules hoped for.
When Luis Enrique began managing Barcelona, he sent the young Halilović on a season-long loan to La Liga side Sporting Gijon. During his loan spell under the supervision of Lucho's close friend Abelardo Fernandez, the young Croatian tallied three goals and five assists. More importantly, he became a regular fixture in the Asturian club and became a fan favourite after just one season.
Despite his successful loan in Gijon, Halilović ended up being sold to Hamburg for €5 million with a two-year buyback option -- not enough of a profit on a player who still has a bright future ahead of him, to be honest. Beyond the two-year buyback option period, Barcelona has primary rights to buy the player if Hamburg ever choose to sell him.
Barcelona has recently been focused on attracting young talent to sustain the momentum of the club as aging stars retire. Nevertheless, Halilović, a twenty-year-old who has been hailed as the Croatian Messi, is bizarrely being shipped off to another club. The controversial move proves that, at least for now, Barcelona is officially done waiting for the diminutive attacking-midfielder to finally come of age at the Camp Nou.
Ultimately, Halilović is a playmaker, and the Barcelona midfield is already clogged with an excess of talent. It seems reasonable that, of all positions, Barcelona will not need any more midfielders for years to come -- and therefore need to make a profit when offloading those players who don't have Luis Enrique's full trust.
Despite the evidence against him, there is reason to believe that the story of FC Barcelona and Halilović might not be over yet. Four of the current midfielders (Ivan Rakitic, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Arda Turan) are old enough that their eventual retirements could occur at a time when Halilović is still in his prime.
Additionally, there is no guarantee that any of the current midfielders, especially the younger ones with plenty of opportunities, will stay at Barcelona forever, and the highly competitive midfield situation only makes the possibility of players leaving more realistic. If a long term injury or a transfer were to thin out the midfield for Barcelona in the next few years, a maturing Halilović would likely be one of the primary options explored.
Although Halilović does not currently have a place with Barcelona, he can serve as a figurative savings account for the team, always available for a time of crisis. Rather than parting ways with the Croatian, the Catalans are making arrangements so that the young midfielder can continue to ply his trade while still leaving the door open for a possible return.
Watch this space: The Halilović and Barcelona story has not quite finished yet despite the youngster's recent departure.
By Marissa Blackman, columnist at Barcablog.