The continual search for new talent is wide-ranging, with Europe’s major clubs taking in the four corners of the footballing globe to find the next teenage revelation.
However, some avenues have been proven time and again, with certain clubs having a telling track record of producing young players of significant ability.
One club that teams from the continent’s major leagues will consistently have an eye on is Dinamo Zagreb, with the Croatian powerhouses the source of some of eastern Europe’s top talent over the years.
Luka Modrić is the most famous recent graduate of the Croat outfit, while international players such as Vedran Ćorluka, Eduardo and Dejan Lovren have all started out at the current Prva HNL champions.
Going back a generation prior and the likes of Zvonimir Boban and Robert Prosinečki, two of Croatia’s most recognisable players in the modern era, originated at the Stadion Maksimir.
Italy has been the destination for Dinamo’s best young talent of late, with Mateo Kovačić, Tin Jedvaj and Šime Vrsaljko all departing for different Serie A clubs in 2013 for a collective transfer fee in the region of €20 million.
Despite these notable departures, the talent is not tapped out; far from it.
Alen Halilović is arguably the greatest talent the club has produced since Modrić shot into prominence back in 2003, and is set to cause quite a scramble for his services between top European sides.
Still only 17, the immensely gifted midfielder is being tipped to be a world-beater, with the teenager starring for Croatian age-grade levels from under-14’s through to under-17’s.
After making his debut in the eternal derby against Hajduk Split in September 2012, in his first 30 senior games for Dinamo Halilović’s range of passing, eye for a killer ball, technique and movement off the ball have caused quite the stir.
Halilović has already made three senior appearances for his nation, bypassing the under-19 and 21 levels, and looks like a player likely to travel to the World Cup with Niko Kovač’s men this summer.
With such a superstar billing gathering, the transfer rumours linking the midfielder with pastures new have been in overdrive. Tottenham and Manchester United have been accredited with an interest in the young star in the past, while Bayern Munich were believed to have been on the verge of signing him a couple of months ago.
The latest European powerhouse to weigh in is Barcelona, with Dinamo director Zdravko Mamić confirming this week that a bid from the Catalan giants has been refused.
The World Cup could well be the perfect venue for Halilović to showcase his considerable talents, with the Croatian wonderkid already adjudged to be one of the brightest talents in European football.
Dinamo will not want to let their prize asset leave without a fight, but will be realistic that they are relatively powerless to resist the overtures of the likes of Barcelona.
With Dinamo youth stars a mainstay in Croatian age-grade sides, plenty of others will follow in their illustrious countrymen’s footsteps and move onto Europe’s top divisions in coming years.
The likes of 17-year-old Robert Muric has been rumoured as a target for some of Europe’s most prestigious clubs, despite not yet making his senior team debut for Dinamo.
In the case of Halilović, Muric and the countless others that will follow in their footsteps, the timing of their departure from Dinamo is critical.
Although the hype surrounding Halilović is palpable at the moment, it is easy to forget that the young star does not even turn 18 until June. Continuing his evolution with his boyhood club could well be the best course of action, but whenever he is ready to leave there will be no shortage of suitors.