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Friend of ALM foe Berisha joins Melb.City

There’s a new Berisha in town.

And unlike his namesake, this one hopes to help Melbourne City lift more A-League Men silverware.

Kosovo international midfielder Valon Berisha – a friend of but no relation to the competition’s all-time leading goalscorer Besart Berisha – has joined City on a one-season loan deal from French club Stade de Reims, subject to visa approval.

The 29-year-old’s move comes as City aim to go one better than last season, when they captured the premiers plate but suffered grand final defeat to Western United.

“I like pressure because I’m used to having pressure,” former RB Salzburg man Berisha told reporters on Wednesday.

“Even when I played in bigger stages in Europa League and also qualifiers for (UEFA) Champions League, I’m used to having pressure all the time.

“But football is about today and tomorrow, it’s not about what you’ve done before.

“For me, I came here and I want to start all over, this is a new chapter and I want to show myself to my teammates first and then, of course, to the league.

“In the end, the most important for me is the team to win because if the team wins you’ll win personally.”

Berisha represented Kosovo’s national team with his namesake and consulted the former Melbourne Victory, Brisbane Roar and Western United striker about Australia after deciding on the move.

“Even though Besart played for the rivals he was talking good about the league,” Berisha said.

“Knowing him from before, being in the national team, he talked really good about it and I remembered that.

“When he reached out now I knew he was going to tell me good things.”

Berisha has arrived in Melbourne fit after weeks of pre-season training and will be ready for City’s 2022/23 season opener on October 7 – a grudge match against Western United.

He sees himself playing as a box-to-box midfielder for City and hopes to form a strong partnership with three-time golden boot winner Jamie Maclaren.

“That’s important for me and I think for a striker as well because he’s going to get the ball from players around him,” Berisha said.

“I want to learn as fast as possible the way he likes to move and the way he likes to get the ball.

“I’ll of course try to assist him as well as I can and I would be happy to score goals as well, but the most important is the team to win and help the strikers to get the golden boot again and have a great season.”

Berisha played alongside Bayern Munich forward Sadio Mane and ex-Barcelona striker Jonathan Soriano during his six years with RB Salzburg, and helped the club reach the Europa League semi-finals in 2018.

The Norway-raised midfielder also shares a strong relationship with Manchester City striker Erling Haaland, with the pair hailing from nearby towns and both making their first big professional moves to Salzburg.

Berisha had joined Italian giants Lazio by the time Haaland arrived, but returned to Austria to complete injury rehabilitation and became close with the man who has gone on to become a global megastar.

“He wanted me to stay with him so we’ve got a really good connection from that time and we’ve been friends since,” Berisha said.

“He’s a great player obviously, and he’s showing that with Man. City already, scoring goals, that’s what he does, but he’s a really good guy also outside the pitch.”

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