Albania international defender to bring experience against Ronaldo to South Australian NPL club

A defender who has played for his country and in the UEFA Champions League against the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi has signed to play in South Australia’s NPL.

Kristi Vangjeli, who has made 35 appearances for Albania, has joined Adelaide Olympic until the end of the 2019 NPL campaign.

He arrived in Adelaide on Tuesday and could make his club debut in tonight’s (Wednesday) FFA Cup clash against Adelaide Comets.

“It’s a huge boost. Kristi will definitely make a difference and we definitely expect that he’ll make an impact,” Olympic president Stavros Parissos said in The Adelaide Advertiser.

“We looked at his quality as a leader, on and off the field.

“To be able to put his professionalism on show to our younger players is something that we’re really going to exploit.

"This signing shows the drive and ambition of Adelaide Olympic.”

Olympic currently sit seventh in the South Australian NPL, and a player of Vangjeli’s experience and pedigree is sure to boost their chances of silverware this season.

Kristi Vangjeli holds off Cristiano Ronaldo as Albania fought out a 0-0 draw with Portugal in 2009
Kristi Vangjeli holds off Cristiano Ronaldo as Albania fought out a 0-0 draw with Portugal in 2009

As well as playing more than 140 games for three-time Greek champions Aris Thessaloniki, the 33-year-old has also turned out in Ukraine, Romania and his homeland.

His most recent club was Albanian Superliga outfit KF Skenderbeu Korce, who he captained to a fourth-place finish in 2018/19.

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A former international teammate of ex-Hyundai A-League star Besart Berisha, Vangjeli was part of the Albania side that held a Ronaldo-led Portugal to a 0-0 draw in a FIFA World Cup qualifier back in 2009.

Equally comfortable in the centre or at left back, Vangjeli, is seen as the perfect addition to help Olympic land their first major trophy, while the defender is motivated by a new challenge Down Under.

“Kristi wants to come out and experience Australian football and the Australian way of life,” said Parissos.

“He’s pretty serious about moving out here in the future with his children.

“He sees Australia as a place of opportunity, especially with his footballing credentials and his knowledge. He’s aware of the potential for junior development here and networking with European academies.”

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