Birmingham City’s status for next season still remains uncertain, but some good results in recent weeks have strengthened their hand when it comes to the relegation battle.
The Blues went on a run of just one win in 13 Championship games, which plummeted them to 23rd position and Aitor Karanka’s head was being called for by large sections of the fanbase.
The Spaniard though has led his side to seven points out of a possible 15, which is a major improvement and it has seen them climb out of the relegation zone.
How long that is for is anyone’s guess though, as the team that sit three points a place behind them – Rotherham – have three games in hand.
Working on the assumption though that the Blues will be in the Championship next season – even though it is no sure thing – they need to start thinking about out-of-contract players and one man in particular.
That player is Alen Halilovic, who joined in November as a free agent, having been contracted to A.C. Milan since 2018.
The 24-year-old was once a ‘wonderkid’ having swapped Dinamo Zagreb for Barcelona at the age of just 18, but his career at that kind of level never worked out.
It’s fair to say though that his Blues career hasn’t gone that great either – but that looks to be through no fault of his own.
Birmingham fans have wanted to see a lot more of the Croatian international than they have – he’s made just nine appearances with three of them being starts, but it’s clear to see that his technical prowess is ahead of anyone in the squad.
That is why fans have found it baffling at Karanka’s refusal to use Halilovic at times, and he was the man to bail the manager out of jail against QPR a few weeks ago, firing home an effort from the edge of the box in a late, late 2-1 win over the Hoops.
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With Birmingham needing a goal to grab a point away at Barnsley last week, Karanka made attacking changes but none of them saw Halilovic enter the fray, and at this point it seems like a new manager may be needed to get the best out of the player.
That’s if he’s going to be around next season – if Birmingham find themselves in League One then there’s not a chance that he will be signing on again – but should they survive then it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that Halilovic can be convinced to sign on the dotted line again.
And the club should do all they can to convince him to stay. Halilovic is a mercurial talent and has the ability to cause mayhem at this level given a consistent run of games, but with the current evidence supplied that doesn’t seem likely to arrive if Karanka remains at St Andrew’s – even though he has backed the player for bigger things.