Summary

  • Halilovic joined Hamburg on four-year deal from Barcelona.
  • Wears iconic no.23 shirt.
  • Scored on his Hamburg debut in the 2016/17 DFB Cup.

He is the Croatian sensation that scored on his debut for Hamburger SV and has his best years very much ahead of him, but what else is there to know about HSV's summer signing Alen Halilovic?

bundesliga.com finds out more about the man once dubbed 'Croatia's Lionel Messi'...

1) Zagreb's milestone man

Born in Dubrovnik on 18 June 1996, Halilovic was only 16 years and 101 days old when he made his professional debut for Dinamo Zagreb. In doing so, he became the youngest debutant in the club's history, but that was just the first of many notable milestones in the months ahead. A week later, he became the youngest goalscorer in 1. HNL league history and later Dinamo's youngest UEFA Champions League debutant, as well as the second youngest in the history of the prestigious tournament itself (16 years, 128 days). He is the son of former Dinamo midfielder and Croatia international Sejad Halilovic.

Halilovic burst onto the scene with Dinamo Zagreb at the tender age of 16.

2) Barcelona promise

Billed as Croatia's 'next big thing', Halilovic was snapped up by Spanish giants FC Barcelona in May 2014. He scored four goals in 29 matches for Barcelona B in the Segunda Division over the course of the 2014/15 campaign, but made just one appearance for the first team - in the Copa Del Rey against Elche CF.

Halilovic found playing opportunities at Barcelona extremely hard to come by.

3) Gijon platform

Halilovic's search for regular first-team football took him to Sporting Gijon, for whom he made a total of 36 appearances over the course of 2015/16. His injection of class - as well as his three goals and five assists - helped the Asturian outfit avoid relegation to the Segunda Division.

4) Fan favourite

Testament to just how highly regarded Barcelona loanee Halilovic was at Gijon, the club handed the diminutive Croatian his very own nickname - 'Guajlilovic' - playing on the 'El Guaje' (the Kid) tag assigned to former favourite David Villa.

The nine-time Croatia international was key to Gijon's survival in 2015/16.

5) EURO 2016 disappointment

Those eye-catching domestic efforts for Gijon aside, Halilovic missed out on a place in Croatia's final UEFA EURO 2016 squad. "[Ante] Coric and Marko [Rog] were preferred to [Alen] Halilovic and [Domagoj] Antolic because I assessed the latter two would find it more difficult to handle being fringe players at Euro 2016," explained head coach Ante Cacic. Croatia exited the competition in the Round of 16, losing 1-0 in extra-time to eventual winners Portugal.

6) At Hamburg to learn

Putting that particular setback behind him, Halilovic is now looking forward to the opportunities that await him in Hamburg after penning a four-year deal with the Bundesliga's only ever-present club. "Barcelona was a positive experience," the Croatian told goal.com. "I also progressed during my time at Sporting Gijon. I played almost every league game for the team last season. I'm only 20 years old, but I've experience of playing in La Liga and now I'm in the Bundesliga. HSV is a huge club – it has great fans and a [capacity] stadium with a great atmosphere."

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7) In van der Vaart's footsteps

Halilovic will wear the famous no.23 shirt at Hamburg, made famous by former HSV favourite Rafael van der Vaart. The Dutch midfielder, now of Real Betis, enjoyed two stints at the port city club, registering 45 goals and 39 assists in 152 Bundesliga appearances. "This is the biggest number at this club," Halilovic said. "I know what it means and I want to give my very best."

8) Croatian forefathers

Halilovic is the 102nd Croatian to join the Bundesliga ranks, and 12th to pull on a Hamburg shirt after Milan Badelj, Ivan Buljan, Ivo Ilicevic, Niko Kovac, Marijan Kovacic, Vladimir Kovacic, Ivica Olic, Andrej Panadic, Mladen Petric, Mladen Pralija and Josip Simunic. "I talked a lot with Milan Badelj, Ivica Olic and Emir Spahic," he revealed. "They say to me that HSV is the biggest club in Germany with Bayern and Borussia Dortmund. I'm glad to share a dressing room with Spahic. He'll be very helpful and make it easier for me to settle."

Ivica Olic is one of a number of Croatians to have represented Hamburg down the years.

9) Playmaker role

Halilovic says that Hamburg head coach Bruno Labbadia plans to use him in his favoured playmaker role, although he is also comfortable on the right wing. In terms of style, the 20-year-old likes to play with his head up, has a frightening turn of pace and a devilishly good left foot, qualities that were all on show when he sent the Red Shorts through to Round 2 of the 2016/17 DFB Cup with a stunning debut winner against FSV Zwickau.

Halilovic (l.) opened his HSV account with a stunning goal against Zwickau in the DFB Cup.

10) Instinctive player

HSV chairman Dietmar Beiersdorfer certainly has no doubts about Halilovic's qualities. "He plays with feeling," he explained. "He feels situations, he feels the game. Alen trusts and likes to go on his gut feeling. His exceptional talent make him a really exciting player, who the fans will really like watching and will strengthen our team."