The best quotes from the A-League Men's new foreigners
Headlined by the signings of Luis Nani and Charlie Austin, the recent off-season saw a staggering 28 new foreigners fly down under to play in the A-League Men. As is commonplace each year in the competition, existing visa signings depart, freeing up spots for clubs to flex their scouting muscles and find new gems abroad.
The suitability of such a transfer policy to the league and the general success rate of visa signings is a debate for another day. But it's always interesting to hear what foreigners think about Australian football and see their personalities on and off the pitch.
Now four rounds into the 2022/23 season, FPF looks at the best quotes from the league's most prominent new foreign signings. There have been some memorable ones already.
Luis Nani - Melbourne Victory
Luis Nani was unveiled as Melbourne Victory's new star marquee signing in the off-season. (Melbourne Victory Twitter)
Luis Nani was undoubtedly the most significant signing for the league this off-season and is one of the biggest transfer coups for a club down under in history.
News of the Manchester United legend's arrival down under was met with much fanfare. Along with shining a light on his personal life on the first episode of the new A-Leagues All Access series, Nani has already provided insight into a couple of hot topics.
Australian football fans are always fascinated to hear what foreigners say about the A-League Men's quality and culture. After being questioned about his thoughts recently, Nani responded positively.
“I like the environment here. People say there is no culture here about football but it’s not true, everywhere I go people recognise me and ask for photos, it’s nice. More and more they’re recognising me because of the league’s start – people are paying attention to our games and this sport,” Nani said in a pre-match press conference ahead of the Wanderers' round two visit to AAMI Park.
Being pessimistic, people would undoubtedly recognise Nani because of his past glories with the Red Devils, not necessarily because he is Melbourne Victory's new star signing. But it is pleasing that he is enjoying his life in Australia. Hopefully, we will see the Portuguese winger in the country for another season.
But we've also seen the competitive side of Nani in the aftermath of Victory's 2-0 defeat to arch-rivals Melbourne City back in round three. Victory captain Joshua Brillante was controversially sent off in the 35th minute of the fixture after lunging in on Aiden O'Neill for his second yellow card. Nani pulled no punches in criticising the officiating of the game afterwards, claiming referee Alireza Faghani had ruined the occasion.
"The red card for me is not a red card, there is a foul before, and the referee can be better. This is a derby, the stadium is full, it kills the game, it kills the spectacle," Nani said in an on-field interview following the Melbourne Derby.
It's safe to say Faghani and Nani aren't necessarily on speaking terms.
Charlie Austin - Brisbane Roar
Charlie Austin was seen as a major coup for the Brisbane Roar this off-season. (KEEPUP)
Another ex-Premier League star who joined the league this off-season was Englishman Charlie Austin. Although not possessing the same CV as Nani, it's easy to forget that Austin scored 18 times for Queens Park Rangers in the 2014/15 Premier League season at the prime of his career.
But like his foreign counterpart, Austin comes with a grounded mentality. He is taking nothing lightly with the Brisbane Roar this season.
"I've not come here just to make up the numbers," Austin told AAP ahead of the new season.
"I've moved across to the other side of the world. I need to get my wife and my family settled - I can't come here and just go through the motions. That's not my character.
"I know this year's going to be a big uphill challenge for Brisbane, but I'm here to help them and ultimately I'm here to win."
It's been an uphill challenge for the Roar so far, off-field woes aside, with Warren Moon's side yet to taste victory in four outings. Austin's frustration was evident with Brisbane 2-0 down to Melbourne City at halftime back in round two. Featuring on the second episode of All Access, the cameras caught his uncensored spray at teammate Connor Chapman in the home dressing room. The defender was not afraid to bite back, either.
As shown in the footage above, the pair made up afterwards, with Austin explaining that such a dispute is normal in a dressing room.
"I wouldn't be like that if I didn't care. I probably should have shown it in a better way. Connor's been around the block so I'd like to think it's not the first barney he's had with someone in the change room, so we move on now. It's normal," Austin said following his altercation with Chapman.
Roar fans will hope that passion can translate to his teammates and result in much-improved form and a first win sooner rather than later.
Valon Berisha - Melbourne City
Valon Berisha joined Melbourne City with a decent CV, having played in Italy, Germany, and France. (KEEPUP)
One foreigner who has also been talking to the media quite a bit is Melbourne City's new star signing, Valon Berisha. And boy, hasn't he been a delight to watch both on and off the pitch.
Ahead of the new season Berisha immediately connected with City fans, describing how his upbringing moulded him into becoming a fierce competitor on the pitch. It's this side of foreign players that A-League Men fans love to see and hear.
“I hate to lose. It sticks with you. I’m never satisfied, I always want to win, even in training. That’s what keeps me going,” Berisha told the Herald Sun at the start of October.
“That’s pushed me since I was young – I’ve won a lot in my career, that’s what I train and make sacrifices for. It’s all about winning. So City fans can expect a winning mentality.
“When you come from a country like (war-torn) Kosovo and what they went through – when I was younger, I didn’t have a lot.
“Dad was always pushing me, even when I was doing well, it was always about winning the next one.”
Berisha's winning mentality brought up comparisons to his namesake and A-League legend Besart Berisha, who Valon explained was instrumental in providing him with an idea of what to expect in Australia.
“I know Besart was here for many years and had a top career here – lots of goals, history. Good on him. It makes me proud. He is Albanian like me, and it’s great to have Albanian representation in other countries,” he said.
“I didn’t know too much about the A-League before. But Besart told me about it in the national team, said it was a very good league and great country. Melbourne is a nice city.”
Berisha may have done his homework on how to adapt to a new lifestyle. But he needed his new teammates to remind him of the importance of their season opener against Western United last month. After City prevailed 2-1, Berisha described the magnitude of the victory in a brilliant post-match interview below.
"I want that revenge for the team because I know, they were talking about it all the time, and I said, 'fucking hell, this is a big game for us and I want to win it'," Berisha said in an on-field interview following the Grand Final rematch that opened the new season.
"Every game is a big game. But of course, when you think about [it] for them (his teammates), when they think about the season and losing the Grand Final, I just wanted to help the team and win today."
That mentality is helping Patrick Kisnorbo's side lead the rest so far and potentially reclaim their crown as champions of Australia.
Robert Mak - Sydney FC
Robert Mak is unveiled as a Sydney FC player in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. (Sydney FC)
After Sydney FC's horrible campaign in 2021/22, Steve Corica had no choice but to rejuvenate his squad this off-season. As usual, the Sky Blues flexed their financial muscles by bringing in a host of new foreigners, including Joe Lolley, Diego Caballo, and Robert Mak.
Mak has arguably shone the most from that trio so far, already netting three goals across the opening four rounds.
But upon joining the club, Mak described how Sydney's trophy-laden history, the new Allianz Stadium, and their previous Slovakian imports influenced his move to the Harbour City.
“This is going to be a fantastic challenge for me and it’s a real honour to be signing for Australia’s biggest and most successful club,” Mak told Keepup back in August.
“I’ve been part of a few Championships and Cup wins in my career, so I know what it takes and want to bring my experience, personality and a few goals and assists to help us this season.
“Going into the new stadium this is going to be a huge season.
“Having spoken to Karol (Kisel) and Filip (Holosko), I am 100% determined to achieve the same success they achieved by also winning the Premiership and Championship double for this great club.”
There's no doubt that Mak is determined to return Sydney to the summit of Australian football. Keeping his goalscoring form up is imperative should they be crowned champions again.
Romain Amalfitano - Western Sydney Wanderers
After years in the wilderness, the Western Sydney Wanderers are surprising everyone this season, currently sitting equal top after four rounds.
Marko Rudan is getting all the plaudits for how his team is set up on the pitch. After years of recruitment mishaps, Rudan's influence has finally brought in some proper foreign talent, headlined by Frenchman Romain Amalfitano.
The midfielder has formed a harmonious partnership with young Calem Nieuwenhof in the centre of the pitch. Ahead of the new season, he described how Rudan's vision for the club was vital in convincing him to join the project.
“So then we (Amalfitano and Rudan) start speaking about the club – what do you want to build?” Amalfitano recalled to Keepup at the start of October.
“What do you want from me? And also (finding out) about our team. So yeah, it was just easy to speak with him (Rudan). We maybe spoke for one or two months. And then we agree that I will come."
Amalfitano also believes the club was shrewd to finalise all their transfer business before pre-season. The fruits of such a strategy are evident at the moment, with a host of new signings surprisingly gelling without much fuss.
“That’s why he (Rudan) wanted to fix the team before the pre-season. It’s a good idea,” Amalfitano said.
“We have one boss who make rules and everything. And then you have players who bring the fire.”
Rudan's players are certainly bringing the fire so far. It's just a matter of whether the flame doesn't fizzle out by the season's end.
Currently, the league is home to quite a few fascinating foreign personalities showcasing their quality for their respective clubs.
One can only hope this group continue to enjoy their time in the A-League Men and help generate further interest in Australian football.
Click here to read a similar article where we broke down what past Polish imports have said about Australian football.