As he paused to reflect on Hyundai A-League match 100, Melbourne Victory captain Carl Valeri paid special tribute to teammates past & present and the Club itself.
“I’m not usually one that looks at numbers, but to do it at this club is very special to me, they supported me through a tough time [and] I’ve got many friends in this team,” Valeri said on Friday.
“Coming back [to Australia] I didn’t know what to expect, but I’d heard a lot about it and people said good things.
“I’ve got to commend Leigh Broxham and Adrian Leijer [for] the way they welcomed me into the team and showed me what Victory is about.
“I’ve still got a close friendship with them, especially Leigh, who is the backbone of the Club. He sets the standards and players come and drive them forward.”
Club Chairman Anthony Di Pietro presented Valeri with the match ball in a special ceremony post-match, and flanked by teammates, coaches, staff and his family Valeri was honoured to become only the twelfth man to reach the 100-game milestone for Melbourne Victory.
“The emotional attachment comes from the tough times.
“You see your true friends when times aren’t going well and Victory stood by me in a way that was unbelievable.
“For that reason - and because I’ve got so many friends here - I’ll be Victory for life, it’s something I won’t be able to help, I’m a Victory fan now.
Valeri’s future was the source of speculation in the off-season, with suggestions the championship winning 2017-18 campaign would be his last.
Having featured in 9 of Melbourne Victory’s ten league games to date - and in the middle of a terrific run of form - Valeri is satisfied the decision to continue beyond last season’s Grand Final has been vindicated.
“The body is feeling good. I’m working as hard as I can and doing everything I can to push the team.
“I’m happy I stayed on. I wanted to make the right decision, I wanted to take my time because I've seen it happen before, a player comes just to play another year - I didn’t want to do that.
“I wanted to play and give 100% to the team. I wanted to make that decision with a clear mind and in the off-season I committed.”
The opportunities to add to his games tally will come thick and fast in the New Year, with no fewer than six league games scheduled between January 5th and 26th.
Ever the professional and team man, Valeri is all about the next challenge.
“We’ve got a very hectic schedule coming up.
“Our sports science staff, lead by Anthony Crea, are managing [how many] minutes we’re playing to get the best out of [us].
“We’ll recover, reset and go again.”