Besart Berisha would have adapted to English football - former Burnley boss Steve Cotterill

Steve Cotterill remains convinced "punt" Besart Berisha would have adapted to the English game.
Besart BerishaBesart Berisha
Besart Berisha

Cotterill went to Hamburg to seal the £340,000 signing of the winger, who had caught the eye with a superb display for Albania against England B in May 2007 - hitting the bar before scoring in a 3-1 defeat at Turf Moor against a side containing the likes of Phil Neville, Ledley King, Gareth Barry, future Claret Aaron Lennon and Michael Owen.

However, Berisha would never play a competitive game for the club as he suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury on international duty, before Cotterill left the club by mutual consent in November that year.

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Berisha failed to work his way into Owen Coyle's plans - despite a stunning solo goal at Accrington in the pre-season of 2008, and after loan spells with Rosenborg and AC Horsens, he was sold to Arminia Bielefeld for £75,000 in July 2009, with Burnley promoted to the Premier League.

Two years later, he made the move to Australia's A-League with Brisbane Roar, and then Melbourne Victory, and in seven years down under, he became the league's all-time top-scorer with 131 goals in 205 games, setting records for the most hat-tricks (5) and quickest hat-trick - a remarkable six minutes for Brisbane against Adelaide United in 2011.

He also won two Golden Boot awards in Australia, leading many Clarets fans - despite the difference in standard - to ponder 'what if?'

Cotterill believes he had the qualities to prosper in England, only for bad luck to intervene: "From my experience, when you bring a foreign player into the country, the manager that brought him in is going to give him time, work with him, and get that confidence, that trust.

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"I thought Bes started quite well, to be fair to him, then he got his injury, and I left, and he never quite recovered.

"I hadn't been there long enough to bear the fruit of what Bes could have brought.

"I wouldn't say it was him that didn't work out, he was a little bit unfortunate.

"Sometimes, when there's a change of manager, things can happen quite quickly.

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"He wasn't a lot of money either. We made enough money when we sold Richard Chaplow, Robbie Blake, Ade Akinbiyi, and Andy Gray was sold not long after I left.

"If we'd have sold Kyle Lafferty as well, we'd have been quids in.

"There were no debts, the loans for Ian Moore and Robbie Blake had been paid, there was a new pitch being built, paid for, so all of that money would have been cash in the bank.

"If we had then gone on any punts, they would have been small change compared to what we had made back then."

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Berisha was a complete unknown over here before that night at Turf Moor in 2007, although that season he had made his Bundesliga debut with Hamburg and become the first Albanian to score in the Champions League, against CSKA Moscow.

He was the name on everyone's lips after his display against Steve McClaren's side, and Cotterill added: "I wasn't aware of Bes before the England B game, he was a punt, we looked at his other games and thought there was potential.

"It was a real punt, but I think he would have adapted, I really do.

"I think it takes 12 to 18 months when someone comes over from football abroad and takes off.

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"If they hit the ground straightaway, you're extremely lucky.

"I couldn't have bought a winger that cheaply anyway, I'd got Wade on a free a year before.

"It was going to be a punt, but I just felt he had something, in that game he showed great feet, great attacking intent, decent pace - those ingredients are pretty good for a winger.

"Don't forget, we'd had Jean Louis Valois on peanuts for a year, and he did fantastic for us as well."

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Valois was another Clarets cult hero, signing as a free agent in September 2004, after spells with Luton, Hearts, Almeria in Spain and Clyde!

The Frenchman provided real flair and craft, memorably coming to the fore in the 3-1 League Cup win over Premier League Aston Villa at Turf Moor, when he capped the win with a brilliant individual goal.

However, he would leave in the summer for a more lucrative contract with UAE Second Division side Al-Khaleej.

Cotterill looked back: "It's not his fault he left on a free, he left because he was going to be offered more money elsewhere.

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"He was earning hundreds with us, and I don't even mean £500, he was earning a few hundred.

"He was magnificent against Villa, he scored a great goal as well, but we just couldn't afford to give him any more money.

"When clubs started coming in for Richard Chaplow and Robbie Blake, it's very difficult to stand in their way. Their wages at the time, which weren't astronomical, were all of a sudden looking like being trebled.

"It's very difficult to stand in a player's way. You know they're going to go, it's just hoping who you're going to replace them with are going to be good replacements.

"We got extremely lucky with transferring Robbie, Ade, Andy Gray, because all of those came off."