When Besart Berisha arrived in the Hyundai A-League to play with Brisbane Roar for the start of the 2011/12 Season, there weren't many fans who knew much about the Pristina-born striker.
Seven seasons, four championships, 116 goals and countless highlights later, Berisha departs the competition as the player who has made the biggest impact.
CONFIRMED: Berisha departs Victory
A deadly finisher, Berisha has demanded success wherever he has played, which is why he has left such an indilible mark on both club's he has turned out for.
But perhaps the most impressive part of Berisha's time in the Hyundai A-League is the player who was brought to the competition by Ange Postecoglou seven years ago has had to constantly develop and adapt his game to maintain at the top.
While his fierce desire to win and predatory instincts in front of goal remain, Berisha’s playing style has evolved immensely underlining his supreme talent and impact on the competition.
Two Hyundai A-League Golden Boots (tied most with Shane Smeltz), three PFA Team of the Season appearances, and the competition’s fastest ever hat-trick (six minutes) are just some of the personal accolades which Berisha has accumulated during his time in Australia.
We look back on some of the defining moments of Berisha's decorated career in the Hyundai A-League.
A BRACE TO SINK THE GLORY
Coming off what had been an extraordinary debut 2011-12 season in the Hyundai A-League for Berisha and an incredible season for his club Brisbane Roar, with just under ten minutes in the championship decider it looked like it may all fall apart for Brisbane right at the end.
Enter Besart Berisha. A goal in the 84th minute pulled Brisbane level with Perth at 1-all, before Berisha won a penalty which is still regarded as controversial to this day – especially if you’re a Perth supporter!
It was the 97th minute, the chance to win a consecutive championship was sat on the penalty spot. Who better but Besart Berisha to step up?
Up he stepped, sent Danny Vukovic the wrong way, and put Brisbane ahead. Seconds after the restart and it was all over – Brisbane 2-1 winners, thanks to Besart Berisha.
EXTRA-TIME THANKS TO BESART
Just two years later, with under ten minutes to go Brisbane were down a goal in yet another championship decider.
This time, it was newcomers Western Sydney Wanderers who were fighting to win the championship on their second attempt and after a Matt Spiranovic goal early in the second half they might have thought they were good for the title.
But, who else was there but Besart Berisha? Again, he and Thomas Broich linked up to score minutes before full-time. On this occasion, it was a free kick from Broich floated over which met the head of Berisha.
He rose and sunk it with aplomb to send the game to extra-time. Although he wasn’t directly involved in Henrique’s winner, Berisha was inside the penalty area and drew players to him – away from Henrique, and opened up space for the Brazillian to win the championship.
OVERHEAD KICK TO SET VICTORY ON THEIR WAY
By the time this season came around, Berisha had well and truly solidified his place in Hyundai A-League folklore as a big-game player. He can step up and deliver when his team needed it most – and come the first finals match for fourth-place Melbourne Victory, he stepped up.
Up against Adelaide United on home soil at AAMI Park, Victory was level 1-all with just minutes to go. They’d fought back from a goal down to level things, and Kevin Muscat looked to be readying a substitute to bring Berisha from the field in search of something to spice up the game.
True to form though, Victory needed something special and Berisha was determined to provide just that before he was taken from the field. It was the 89th minute, and Kosta Barbarouses dinked a ball in from the right-hand edge of the penalty area.
Slightly behind its target, in an area where most strikers would take a touch and look perhaps to give it to an onrushing attacker. Not Berisha, though. With an enormous effort, he pulled himself off the pitch and went for the overhead kick.
Berisha connected, the ball SOMEHOW burying its way inside the post past the outstretched hand of Adelaide ‘keeper Paul Izzo, and it set Victory on the path to their fourth A-League championship.