TRUE BLUE AUSSIE: Victory striker Besart Berisha hopes to receive Australian citizenship early next year. Picture: AAP Images Besart Berisha hopes to finally come good on his long-running dream of playing in the A-League as an Australian early next year.
The competition’s all-time leading scorer says he’s just weeks away from being granted citizenship in the country he’s called home for seven years.
“I hope in January or February I will become an Aussie and that will be great. I’m really looking forward to that,” Berisha said ahead of the clash against Newcastle on Friday. “I’m not sure exactly when but I’m really looking forward to being an official Australian.This is the country where I start again to play good football and I achieve great things. I’m very grateful for that and this is why I’m still here.I love this country, its been great to me and I’d like to enjoy it as much as I can.”
Berisha’s citizenship would be a boon for Victory coach Kevin Muscat, allowing the club to sign an extra foreigner next season.
Muscat is unlikely to do so in January even if citizenship came through, given the club’s salary cap dynamics and the fact the A-League premiership is almost definitely out of reach.
Berisha, who this month signed a new deal to stay at Victory until 2019, has a fascinating journey to the A-League.
The 32-year-old was born in Yugoslavia – now Kosovo – fleeing the violence of the Balkans as a refugee with his family on foot, settling in Germany.
After stints in England, Scandinavia and Germany, Ange Postecoglou convinced the fiery hitman to swap Europe for Brisbane, where he became a raging success.
Berisha scored in both of the Roar’s grand final successes under Postecoglou before moving to Melbourne Victory.
Under Muscat, Berisha won a third title and became the first man to score 100 A-League goals, including two more in grand finals.
Berisha’s five-year stay in Melbourne will be his longest at any club.
“This is a big club with big ambitions, they want to be always the best,” he said.
“This is why I decide to stay another year here. I’m very happy with my decision.”
Berisha chose to remain at Victory despite reported interest from the Chinese Super League.
“Of course if you play good football and you score goals as a striker you always attract clubs,” he said.
“Since day one when I arrived here I’ve really enjoyed my football.”