"I admire Leo, but I am a long way from him," Alen Halilović said in 2012 after becoming GNK Dinamo Zagreb youngest scorer; he will soon be observing Lionel Messi up close at FC Barcelona.
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UEFA.com's Elvir Islamović told our readers about the brilliant Alen Halilović way back in 2012; here is how we reported on the new FC Barcelona signing's first major career milestone.
Positive noises have been emanating from the GNK Dinamo Zagreb youth academy for a number of years now and on Sunday the reason for such excitement demonstrated why.
Alen Halilović − the son of former Modri player Sead Halilović, who plied his trade with the club between 1992 and 1995 − became the youngest scorer in Prva Liga history at the age of 16 years and 113 days when he capped a late cameo with the final goal in his side's 4-1 win at NK Slaven Koprivnica. Eight days earlier the midfielder had broken the equivalent appearance record with a substitute outing in the Eternal derby against HNK Hajduk Split.
"I enjoy playing for Dinamo," said the teenager upon signing professional terms with the Croatian champions four months ago. "This is what I dreamed about when I started to play football. The reason I started was because I wanted to be like my dad: to play for Dinamo Zagreb."
The consensus among his coaches is that Dinamo have never had such a talent on their books. Having seen him in first-team action for a grand total of 14 minutes, fans are already proclaiming the emergence of another 'wonderkid'.
Rumour has it that several of Europe's top clubs are closely monitoring Halilović's progress, with England's Daily Mirror newspaper reporting that the playmaker "is seen as one of the most exciting prospects in Croatian football since Luka Modrić came on the scene.
"[Manchester] United wanted Modrić this summer but he only had eyes for Real Madrid. Sir Alex Ferguson remains committed to leaving a lasting legacy at United and continues to monitor Halilović".
As is often the case when a teenager breaks through, comparisons with past and present greats are inevitable, with the Croatian media already likening Halilović to a certain FC Barcelona No10. "Just don't call me Messi," said Halilović, attempting to deflect the growing hype.
"I admire Leo, but I am a long way from him. For now my goal is to play well and to show the coach [Ante Čačić] he can count on me." Wise words from a 16-year-old who is definitely one to keep an eye on.