'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, 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.

"These negotiations, or the bid to sign this player, started in 2010," Martino told a news conference ahead of Sunday's La Liga game at home to promoted Almeria (2000 GMT).

 Balkan Messi Halilovic set to join Barcelona

Alen Halilovic is going to play for the Barcelona 'B' team initially.

"He is coming here to play for the B team," the Argentine added.

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 (1600), have 63 points with 13 games left, with Barca and Atletico tied on 60.

Martino has left back Jordi Alba available after injury, although Spain team mate Gerard Pique, a centre back, is out with a calf problem.

Reuters

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Updated Date: Mar 01, 2014 19:23:19 IST