Alen Halilovic is edging ever closer to having a more prominent role at Birmingham City under Aitor Karanka.
To date, the Croatian playmaker, who signed on a free transfer last month, has made three substitute appearances thus far and has accumulated just 58 minutes of action in the process.
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Having arrived with a big reputation and an eye-catching CV, Blues fans might understandably have expected to have seen more from Halilovic by now.
As Karanka pointed out, though, this has been the first week that the 24-year-old has had a full, uninterrupted week to work with his new teammates without worrying about a midweek fixture.
That has set him in good stead for the festive schedule to come, during which time Karanka expects to be able to call upon him more as Halilovic gets up to speed with the demands of Championship football.
“He’s close. I knew that he was a really good player, and he really is,” Karanka said. “To be fair, it’s the first week he could train 100% with his teammates, because since he arrived here we couldn’t train together with eight games in four weeks – it was impossible.
“This week has been good for him, especially to get the intensity and you need to play in the Championship. His work has been good and now he is close.”
Karanka has been left pleased and excited by what he has seen of Halilovic on the training pitch as he continues to integrate himself into the Blues squad, in which there is plenty of competition for places in midfield.
“We’ve seen him a little bit in the games he’s played, but to play in the Championship you need much more than those minutes,” he added.
“You need to be aggressive and intense, and he’s been really good at that. Now, I hope that he can play as soon as possible.”