Brisbane Roar fans had accepted the inevitability of Besart Berisha leaving the club at the end of the current season. He had been a loyal servant for three years, scored more goals than anyone else for the club and become a fan favourite for his fiery style of play. He scored both goals in the 2012 Grand Final, including the decisive penalty (something that the Glory fans should really let go already) and gave his all in every game.
But on January 22, in the space of an hour and a half, he went from hero to villain. An email to Roar fans confirmed that he was leaving to chase a different challenge, most assumed that he would go overseas as he had, up until that stage been a loyal servant of the Roar. Before long Twitter was ablaze with reports that he had followed the well-worn path from the Roar to the Melbourne Victory. It hurt fans and there were some vitriolic reactions to the defection, it served as a harsh reminder that football is still a business. While there is plenty of time to speculate over how he will go down south, the big question for 2014 was whether or not Berisha would still be able to give his all for the final six months of his Roar deal.
Nearly every adult would have found themselves in a position where they were ready to move on to bigger and better things. Be it the end of year 12 in school before becoming a grown up or just moving on from one job to another. As such, it is only natural to wonder if Berisha’s head has been elsewhere since that announcement. For someone whose game depends so much on emotion, there have been legitimate questions over whether or not he would be as invested in the Roar’s title challenge. As the team has struggled in that time, Berisha’s occasional half-hearted efforts have made him the obvious target of the fans’ frustrations but in reality, he is not the only player to be playing below par.
Most of the criticisms surround Berisha dropping deeper into the midfield to pick up the ball and run at defenders. His greatest success is as a poacher who lingers on or around the last defender and receives great service from players like Thomas Broich. Whether it is a coaching decision or just Berisha looking to prove himself, it has resulted in several attacks breaking down as Berisha has been out of position at key moments. Combine that with half-hearted efforts to bring himself back into play after making a run and the questions about his performances have been warranted.
It would take a big decision from Mulvey to drop his prolific striker from the side, but as the team has proven so far this season, they are more than capable of winning without him. Having missed games through injury and suspension this year, the Roar’s machine has continued to click including a resounding 5-2 thumping of Sydney in December. With players such as Dimitri Petratos, Broich and Berisha’s predecessor Jean-Carlos Solorzano waiting in the wings, Berisha can be given a gentle reminder that if he does not perform, there are plenty of other players willing to do his job for him and that the team is much more important than any one player.