ABC Pod: Is Berisha the A-League's best ever player? Garb, Cornthwaite discuss

A hero to some, a villain to others, an undeniably ruthless finisher, a destroyer of records: there's no mistaking the enormous impact Besart Berisha has made on Australian football since he first arrived at Brisbane Roar.

Almost ten years have passed since he made his competition debut. In that time the A-League's all-time leading goalscorer has won the A-League Golden Boot twice along with one FFA Cup, two Premierships and four Championships split equally between Brisbane and Melbourne Victory.

Now in his second season at Western United, the deadly marksman moved out on his own as the second-highest goalscorer in the history of Australia's national football leagues with 138 goals after scoring a brace in United's 4-1 destruction of Macarthur FC in Matchweek 9.

He now trails only Damian Mori, who holds an astonishing record of 240 goals scored across his time in the NSL and A-League.

Thomas Broich, Milos Ninkovic and Diego Castro are the names often thrown into the debate regarding the A-League's greatest ever player - but does Berisha feature in the discussion enough considering his unquestionably significant impact over a 10-year stretch?

Read on as Robbie Cornthwaite and Daniel Garb assess where Berisha stands in the never-ending debate. The pair of Australian football pundits also discuss the staggering squad depth of Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers' squads in another episode of the ABC Grandstand Football Podcast. 

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Does Berisha's villainous A-League persona cost him in the conversation of A-League greats?

"It’s kind of like the Novak Djokovic theory (with Berisha): no one wants to give him the credit of (Roger) Federer and (Rafael) Nadal because people just don’t like him as much."

On the same weekend tennis star Novak Djokovic was winning his ninth Australian Open in Melbourne, Berisha was continuing to add chapters to his own legendary sporting tale.

Djokovic continues to contend for the affection of the tennis world, often shrouded in the shadows of the great Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. In that sense, Berisha's A-League story has similarities to that of the Serbian tennis star: his goalscoring record is second-to-none, his silverware cabinet is full to the brim, his status as an A-League legend is cemented.

But Cornthwaite and Garb pose the question: is this A-League icon the best of the best?

REPORT: History-maker Berisha leads Western United's rout of Macarthur

Besart Berisha celebrates his fourth A-League Championship earned with Melbourne Victory in the 2017/18 season
Besart Berisha celebrates his fourth A-League Championship earned with Melbourne Victory in the 2017/18 season

"I think Besart Berisha, he isn’t involved in the conversation for the best A-League player of all time enough," Cornthwaite said.

"It’s always Ninkovic, it’s Castro, it’s Thomas Broich, because they’ve got the creativity and the flair and all that. 

For Berisha to come in and be the second-greatest goalscorer in Australian football...he would be the best A-League striker, but If he’s not the best A-League player, or had the biggest impact, I’d be absolutely shocked."

GOAL: Berisha scores against league-leading Central Coast Mariners in Matchweek 7

"Also because he’s a bit of the villain," Garb replied.

"It’s kind of like the Novak Djokovic theory: no one wants to give him the credit of (Roger) Federer and (Rafael) Nadal because people just don’t like him as much.

"There’s a bit of that with Bes', and he’ll openly admit that he’s controversial.

"You make a good point, his record is unbelievable and to be doing it at his age still at Western United speaks volumes."

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Strength in numbers could help Sky Blues, Wanderers in the long run

"The depth off the bench, it wakes you up to how powerful both of these squads are."

Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers played out respective draws in two of the early fixtures of Matchweek 9.

The results were nothing to write home about for either side. But, as the two games played out, Garb noticed a strength both sides possess unrelated to points on the board or current form. It could be a factor that separates the two Sydney teams from the rest in what may prove a crucial area in a testing season.

"Look at the depth of Sydney FC and Western Sydney now, who went seven games unbeaten with the draw against Wellington (Phoenix)," Garb said.

"The depth off the bench, it wakes you up to how powerful both of these squads are.

"Sydney bring on (Alex) Baumjohann, Luke Brattan and Bobo.

 Western Sydney bring on Mitch Duke, Bruce Kamau, Simon Cox, Jordon Mutch and they’ve got Graham Dorrans and James Troisi out. 

It’s a different level of depth compared to I think any other team in the competition."

MATCH REPORT: Sydney FC 0-0 Brisbane Roar

Baumjohann could only make the bench as the Sky Blues faced Brisbane in Matchweek 9
Baumjohann could only make the bench as the Sky Blues faced Brisbane in Matchweek 9

"As well as the Mariners, Brisbane and Macarthur have started the season, those two teams for me are the real sort of sleeping giants at the moment," Cornthwaite replied.

"Neither of them have really hit their straps – I know the Wanderers are seven unbeaten but I think there’s so much upside for them. I think they can play so much better, and they’re just slowly building. 

"I reckon come the pointy end of the season you’re going to see (those) two battling it out. If they are, that’s going to be absolutely huge for the A-League.

"I think the front third for Robinson and for the Wanderers is almost like a jigsaw he hasn’t put together yet, because (Bernie) Ibini for me… I don’t know whether he’s worth all the trouble just yet, because he hasn’t really produced."

Mitchell Duke
With Duke back in the frame, Wanderers boss Carl Robinson has his work cut out to fit all of his attacking stars into a system that works

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