Alen Halilovic admits he struggled to live up to his billing as one of world football’s hottest talents during his time at Barcelona but says his top-level experience since then will make him an asset to AC Milan.
The 22-year-old midfielder joined the Rossoneri from Hamburg on a three-year contract as part of an influx of signings at San Siro that included Nikola Kalinic, Fabio Borini, Ivan Strinic and Pepe Reina.
At his first Milan news conference, Halilovic was asked about his two-year spell at Camp Nou, where he failed to make a single first-team appearance.
“I was very young two years ago,” he told reporters. “I went to Barcelona when I was 19. It’s hard when you’re young and don’t get the chance to play.
“Now at 22 and having made more than 90 appearances in the biggest leagues in the world I thought it was the right time to take a further step.”
Halilovic impressed while on loan from Hamburg at Las Palmas during the last two seasons and he scored twice in 16 appearances in 2017-18.
The Croatia international said that he intended to learn Italian to ease his transition from La Liga to Serie A.
“It’s an important step for my career and I want to show everyone what I can do,” he said. “I’m happy to work with this staff and with my new friends.
“I’ve spoken to Coach [Gennaro] Gattuso, I had a good impression, he explained everything to me and I can talk to him later anyway, but my first impression was great.
“I’ve been talking to the Spanish-speaking players like Suso and [Mateo] Musacchio, I want to learn Italian as soon as possible to make new friends.
“I would like to thank [Kevin-Prince] Boateng and [Alberto] Aquilani, they told me about the history of Milan and the club, they told me that I have to train hard.
“The most important thing was to go where I had the chance to play, and at the age of 22 I chose Milan and for me it’s a big step forward.”