English journalist Jonathan Wilson specializes in soccer players from Eastern Europe. Among other ventures, Wilson works for Sky Sports. He has written knowledgeably about Eastern European football. He authored, “Behind the Curtain, Football in Eastern Europe.”
There are five players from former Yugoslav state that in January could play in the Premiership and Wilson’s task was to comment on each of them. Among the five are two Croats: Mario Mandzukic and Alen Halilovic. Along with them, there are Nemanja Matic (Serbia), Miralem Pjanic (Bosnia) and Mirko Vucinic (Montenegro).
Wilson: Mandzukic is not afraid of challenges, the Premiership would suit him. I’m sure he wants to stay at Bayern, but if we look realistically, I do not know how he could get into the first team next year with the presence of Lewandowski and Müller and Götzea, [Formidable talents], all who can play in his position. Mandzukic plays with kind of ‘ madness ‘ that trainers fiind difficult to control. Guardiola believes he is a short-term expedient, but Mario is not a typical player by Guardiola taste, says Wilson.
Wilson: Mandzukic has the physical qualities which make him fit Premiership . He is not afraid of a challenge and enjoys the physical play as is the English style. He is a player whose elbows fly everywhere. I mean that in a good way. He is an attacker who is difficult to dispossess. Will he go in January? Probably not, but Bayern could feel that now is the right time to gain a good transfer fee.
Wilson: Alen Halilovic is a incredibly talented midfielder. Also, he can play on the wing and play into the middle. But, I think that in the past year he was a bit ‘ cooked up ‘. He was too exposed and this was seen in a game. The challenge is to correctly use such a quality kid. Right now he looks exhausted. Maybe, he was struck in the head when linked with Tottenham this summer. I do not know. He has not fully matured He could thrive in the next year, but has to play and think more about football.
WFF: Since the summer, transfer reports have linked Halilovic to Barcelona, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Bayern Munich, a Russian side and Spurs, again. No other young player has received so much interest. Such attention is bound to make a 17 year-old starlet giddy. If Halilovic stays at Dinamo Zagreb until June, the club must feature him more. Opportunities are fewer since Dinamo’s elimination from the Europa League. Dinamo has a comfortable domestic league lead. No matter. A fit Halilovic needs more starts and match minutes.
WFF: If contract negotiations exclude Dinamo receiving a large transfer fee, their unwillingness to play Halilovic may increase. Zagreb’s top man Zdvrako Mamic talks of Alen as “our jewel.” Of course, he is not a priceless jewel. Perhaps, Barcelona sees the situation best although the Blaugrana’s offer was rejected. Barca are willing to pay out €15 million, but Halilovic must prove his worth to receive the wages he expects.
As for now, in the midst of the January transfer window, neither Halilovic nor Mandzukic have a reason to pack their bags for England.
Jonathan Wilson’s assessment is a translation from an article written by Alen Besedić for Sky.hr