Reading’s third summer signing, Alen Halilovic, is somewhat of an enigma. Once a wonderkid at Dinamo Zagreb, he’s since been on a whirlwind tour of Europe but not settled at any of his clubs, which include Barcelona, Hamburg and AC Milan.
His most recent side though was Birmingham City, for whom he featured 17 times last season during the course of a short-term contract. So how did he get on there, what ability did he show and what will he bring to Berkshire? To answer those questions we checked in with Blues fan Gab Sutton; many thanks to him for his time.
How would you sum up his time at Birmingham City?
Showed flashes of promise without backing that up with a consistent run of form. I remember watching his debut impact at Bristol City from the bench: he came on when it was goalless and changed that game, we won 1-0 through a Harlee Dean header. We thought we had someone special.
After that game, though, Halilovic seemed to struggle for opportunities under Aitor Karanka and possibly suffered from the defensive style of play his boss employed.
What style of player is he, and where is he best deployed?
A very technical player, similar to Michael Olise but with probably a lower long-term ceiling. Can play in the #10 role or, being left-footed, cut into the hole from the right. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him do well in a possession-based side.
What are his main strengths and weaknesses?
He doesn’t tend to be dispossessed when carrying the ball and he’s capable of producing moments of quality. His deliveries can be outstanding and he has the accuracy to pick out some brilliant through balls, although sometimes I’d like to see him be less indulgent and use his quality to release the ball.
As for weaknesses, he’s a bit lightweight and probably not the most tenacious footballer in the world. Having said that, Lee Bowyer was happy to play him on the right of a midfield quartet in a 4-4-2.
What’s his character like?
Hard to say from an observational capacity. A few of our fans are unhappy that Halilovic took as long as he did deliberating on the contract offer.
Are Birmingham City fans unhappy to see him leave?
Not at the moment, but that’s partly because we’ve signed Tahith Chong, who most of us would say has looked the better player. Chong is a bit more direct.
Do you think he’ll be a success at Reading?
Hard to say. I look at the defending at Huddersfield last time out and I question whether Halilovic is exactly the type of player you’d want coming into the building in the aftermath of that kind of performance.
However, if you can get the basics right very quickly and give yourselves a high-volume of possession in the opposition half, then there’s every chance he can do the business for you.