Valon Berisha 19 Midfielder Salzburg
Another player of Kosovar stock, Valon (and his younger brother Veton, also a talented footballer) was born in Sweden. Growing up in Norway, he spent his early years at local club Egersunds IK where his technique, poise and balance were noted from an early age.
Invited for trials with a number of English clubs, the teenager opted to remain in his home country and, after making a third division debut for EIK at 15, joined Viking FK of Stavanger in 2009. A Tippeligaen debut for De Mørkeblå, when Berisha was still just 17, against Brann followed on 21 March 2010.
Valon Berisha had long since been marked out as a player of enormous potential and has been somewhat fortunate to progress through the various levels of international football without overly excessive hype. The reason for this is that Norway are really starting to turn out some fine players and Berisha is in good company alongside Magnus Eikrem, Markus Henriksen, Havard Nielsen, Harmeet Singh, Jo-Inge Berget and several others.
That’s not to say praise hasn’t been lavish at home. In 2010, Viking youth team coach Jone Mathisen described Berisha as “The most exciting footballer I have ever seen” and former Viking manager Åge Hareide was just as complimentary; “Valon is perhaps the very best (Norwegian player he has worked with). There is only Ole Gunnar Solskjær who can reach up to what he has to show."
Considered something of a left field choice for The 100 by many, we watched Berisha quite regularly before announcing this list in December 2011. We liked what we saw, so the praise is easy to understand. Pretty much identifiable as the future of Norwegian football, Berisha does not fit the stereotype of imposing centre forwards and towering centre backs usually associated with the Scandinavian nation. He is very different and has more of a Latin air to his play.
Not long after we selected him, Berisha was the subject of much transfer speculation, but endeared himself to us greatly by being regularly quoted in the Norwegian press suggesting that his next move would be a gentle step, rather than a leap. With interest from English clubs remaining strong, Berisha was expected to move to the Netherlands as the next stage of his footballing education. However it was to the Austrian Bundesliga and the relative riches of Red Bull at Salzburg which proved the most enticing.
While Austrian league football doesn’t always prove to be a springboard to success, the move, to us at least, looks tremendously sensible. Berisha, now a full international at 19, is a first team player and has already shown that the impact he made in Norway is more than likely to be repeated in his adopted home.
At present, Salzburg are tussling with Austria Wien for top spot and this is a battle that is likely to continue through the season. As things stand, Wien’s free scoring striker Philipp Hosiner is receiving the most plaudits in the division. Nonetheless, we’ve seen enough of Berisha recently to suggest that he may be the player who really stands out by the end of term. If the league is new to you we’d encourage you to check in via the many streams that are available these days, it’s going to be quite a battle.
A genuinely two footed skilful attacker with a dash of Paul Gascoigne thrown in. A dribble king with a ridiculously low centre of gravity and a brain that is completely switched on off the football field as well as on it. We’d wager that you’ll be hearing an awful lot more about the magician from Malmo – as well as his equally special younger sibling - in years to come.
"There is a risk that people might be duped into thinking Berisha is just for the YouTube nutmeg archive, but watch him regularly and you'll see the swift thinking and slick movement that mean this boy is going to be a star." - Jeff Livingstone (IBWM)
C+ We are MASSIVELY excited about this kid. He is just going to make you feel ALIVE!