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What happened to Birmingham City flop dubbed ‘next Lionel Messi’ at BarcelonaWhat happened to Birmingham City flop dubbed ‘next Lionel Messi’ at Barcelona

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Former Barcelona youngster Alen Halilovic has just celebrated his 26th birthday, so what happened to the midfielder once dubbed as the ‘next Lionel Messi’?

Truthfully, that tag has been a burden for many a diminutive playmaker with quick feet and impressive balance,

which are capable of weaving through opponents and changing a game in the final third. But Birmingham City fans saw very little of that while the Croatian was at St Andrew’s.

Halilovic joined Blues in November 2020, after being released from Italian giants AC Milan, with his career at a low ebb having been sent out on two different loan spells in the season before, to Standard Liege and Heerenveen. But he flattered to deceive under Lee Bowyer and Aitor Karanka,

who gave the midfielder 17 opportunities to impress – he scored one goal in that time in a win over Queens Park Rangers

“I was happy in Birmingham and there are a lot of inquiries now, but I decided I wasn’t going to rush because I was rushing with decisions a few times earlier in my career,”

he told FavBet, via tportal. “The reason is some mistakes, injuries, but going to England helped me a lot.

“I was called by the best HNL (Croatian league) clubs and I don’t see anything wrong with going back to the HNL.

The league has progressed a lot in recent seasons. There is nothing concrete at the moment, but we will see in the next ten days what will happen.

I stayed in Birmingham because of the relationship with the coach and the great fans, but we couldn’t find a common language.

“We arranged for everyone to go their own way, but we left the possibility that I could go back there. I’d like to take a step forward. I have another ten years of career ahead of me and now I am ready for bigger challenges.

I had the option to go to Dubai, China … I could go for a lot of money, but I didn’t decide to do it because I believe I can provide a good game.”

Halilovic’s move to Blues came at a crossroads in his career, having struggled to pin down any regular football at the six clubs he joined joining Barcelona in 2014.

The Catalan giants took a punt on him after he made headlines for breaking into the Dinamo Zagreb first-team at the tender age of just 16 years and 101 days in September 2012.

He also won his first Croatia cap before his 17th birthday, and in 2014, Barcelona beat several clubs to agree a £2 million deal for the then-18-year-old attacking midfielder, with Halilovic penning a five-year deal.

Eventually, he was shipped out on his first loan move away from the Nou Camp, as he joined Sporting Gijon for the 2015-16 season, where he scored five goals in 37 appearances.

Following the expiration of that loan switch, Halilovic then joined AC Milan on a free transfer in 2018 – a unexpected move which gave the Croatian an opportunity to get his career back on track.

Though, loan moves to Standard Liege and Dutch side Heerenveen wouldn’t give him the spring-board he needed to prove the critics wrong.

The lifeline Blues gave Halilovic has now of course ended, and the midfielder didn’t have any luck impressing at Reading,

either – who he joined in August 2021. The Croatian is now searching for another new club ahead of the 2022/23 campaign.

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Rio Ferdinand issues major warning about Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag

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Former centre-back Rio Ferdinand believes it is still too early to judge whether Erik ten Hag is the right man to lead Manchester United back to the top, despite their unquestionable improvement under him this season.

United head into tomorrow’s Manchester derby against City at Old Trafford with the knowledge that a win will lift them to within a point and place of their neighbours in the Premier League table.

The Reds have lost just one of their last 18 matches since being battered 6-3 by City back in October, featuring a current run of eight wins on the bounce.

The Reds, such is the level of progress they have made under Ten Hag this season, are now considered as one of the favourites to qualify for the Champions League for next season.

They have made significant strides in a relatively short space of time and victories over the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur already this season have proven that they are capable of competing in the upper echelons of the table again.

However, despite heading into the second half of the campaign with form in their sails, Ferdinand insists the jury is still out on Ten Hag, despite him reaching 20 wins as United manager quick than any of his predecessors.

“I think it’s too early to say,” said Ferdinand to the Mirror. “We’ve been here with previous managers when it looks like we are onto something.

“We’ve got to be patient and give the man time. I think all the signs are very positive at the moment. He’s come in and seen what is happening, assessed how things are, looked at individuals and looked at the shape of the team.

“These were a bunch of players that were quite low. They were shot to pieces and he’s had to build, not only footballers, but men back up again. He’s had to build a lot of human beings back up and that takes time.

“The fact he’s now talking about qualifying for the Champions League so positively, he can sense a confidence coming back into this team. There’s a consistency of performance from the team that wasn’t there before and the signals and signs are all very promising.

“But they’re still not where they want to be. City are way ahead of where United are. The distance is a bit closer, but it’s still not anywhere near where we want it to be. There’s still work to be done.”

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Manchester United takeover bids ‘expected imminently’ with serious interest in Club

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Manchester United are expecting takeover offers from across the world as they are set to invite bids ahead of ‘mid-February deadline’.

The Telegraph have reported that the club have received ‘serious interest’ from consortiums based in the Middle East, Asia and the United States.

British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe is also weighing up an offer, as the Glazers hope to the sell one of the biggest clubs in the world for over £5billion.

The report also adds that parties who had been interested in taking over Chelsea, before Todd Boehly’s £4.25bn takeover, are set to return with approaches for the Red Devils.

It’s expected that potential investors will go public with their attempts to buy United in the coming weeks with the clock ‘now ticking on a deal’.

Senior United figures will issue a mid February deadline for formal offers in order to help get get the takeover completed before the end of the season.

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Confirmed: Chelsea ready to make late bid to hijack another Arsenal transfer

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Chelsea will make a late attempt to scupper Arsenal’s hopes of finally signing Mikhailo Mudryk from Shakhtar Donetsk.

The Gunners have submitted their third bid for the Ukraine international winger and hope an offer of £62m before add-ons, which take the deal closer to £70m, will be enough to break the deadlock between the two clubs.

Chelsea’s interest in the 21-year-old winger was earlier this week described only as ‘exploratory’ but ESPN now claim that Todd Boehly will test the waters and attempt to throw a spanner in the works for the Premier League leaders.

Shakhtar’s technical director Darijo Srna was pictured at Stamford Bridge last week as he watched Chelsea’s defeat against Manchester City and Boehly would have little issue with meeting an asking price which is closer to £88million.

Arsenal are said to be confident that their latest bid for Mudryk will be enough to finally secure the services of their No.1 January target, but have already been beaten to the punch once this month by their west London rivals.

Chelsea won the race to sign Joao Felix on loan from Atletico Madrid amid competition from Arsenal and Manchester United, but the Portugal international’s promising debut ended in devastating fashion when he was sent off just shy of the hour mark for a dangerous challenge on Fulham’s Kenny Tete.

Felix will now miss the next three games through suspension as the problems mount for Chelsea’s under-fire manager Graham Potter.

‘It sums up where we are at the moment – everything that can go wrong, is going wrong,’ Potter said after Chelsea’s 2-1 west London derby defeat.

‘It was a forward’s tackle from Joao, there was no malice in it but I understand why it was a red. It is another blow the hits keep coming at the moment.

‘He was really good you could see his quality in the game so it is doubly disappointing for us because he was looking dangerous throughout.

‘I don’t think there was too much malice in it and it is an unfortunate action and we are going to lose him now for three games.’

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