Aloisi reflects on career

For the first time in his 20-year professional football career John Aloisi has spent the week looking back rather than forward.

For the first time in his 20-year professional football career John Aloisi has spent the week looking back rather than forward.

That is because the 35-year-old will take his final playing bow when Melbourne Heart hosts Sydney FC at AAMI Park on Saturday night.

"I've come to terms with it, I've realised that this week is my last as a professional footballer," Aloisi said.

"It's the first time in my career I've really reflected on my career because you usually try to focus on wherever you are and the job at hand."

"This week it's been a bit emotional because I had some great times over in Europe and the national team. I've thought about it quite a bit."

For Aloisi, Saturday's match closes the book on a storied career that saw the boy from Adelaide grace the world's three best leagues - Italy, England and Spain - along with 55 appearances for Australia.

And oh yeah, that penalty which sent the Qantas Socceroos to the 2006 World Cup.

"Virtually every day I get stopped if I meet someone different, they'll tell me what they were doing, where they were and ask what it was like for me," Aloisi said.

"That's special to be part of such a moment. I think it hit home (the impact of the goal) in the last three years since I've been in Australia."

But Aloisi's legacy to Australian football is much more than that spot kick in Sydney against Uruguay.

He was the first Australian to complete the trifecta of playing in Italy, England and Spain's top-flights and created history as the first Aussie to score a Serie A goal with Cremonese in 1995.

Amazingly, Italy had beckoned for Aloisi three years earlier when as a teenager he trialled with Genoa, a club who boasted a Dutch international winger named John van 't Schip.

Fast forward nearly 20 years later and van 't Schip was sitting alongside Aloisi in his role at Melbourne Heart's coach.

"I first met John when he came on a trial and I advised him not to come to Genoa because I was afraid he would take my place," van 't Schip joked.

"I thought it was not a good choice for him to come to Genoa with the situationat the club, it was not organised well and for a young player it would not be a good first step. He went to Belgium and I followed his career after that."

Aloisi admitted van 't Schip's advice was spot on the mark having spent a tumultuous period at Cremonese after a successful two-year stint at Royal Antwerp.

Deployed as a lone striker, Aloisi scored four goals in 48 appearances for the club, whose fans didn't enjoy losing.

"At the time I didn't know what John was on about, when you're back here as a kid and see Serie A, you think how good it would be to play there - after I went to Cremonese I saw what he was talking about," Aloisi said.

Aloisi spent the next four years in England, first with Portsmouth thanks to the influence of then Socceroos boss Terry Venables, then at Premier League club Coventry City.

After Coventry's relegation from the Premier League, Aloisi headed to Spain for the most productive club spell of his career with Osasuna, scoring 28 goals in 121 appearances.

Not only did he score the goal that saw the Pamplona club avoid relegation, but Aloisi left the club in style with a late equaliser in the Copa del Rey Final against Real Betis, a moment he described as one of the highlight of his career.

"It was the first time in their history to make a final. We ended up losing in extra time, but the atmosphere was probably the best I've played in front of."

Aloisi's time in Spain coincided with the 2006 World Cup, an event he regards as the pinnacle of his career.

"The World Cup was massive, the atmosphere in Germany after Australia had waited so long to get back there was something I can't describe," Aloisi said.

"To play in it and as a striker to score in a World Cup was a dream come true. To do it in the Japan game, the first time Australia had won and to score so late on was special."

But things soon turned pear-shaped with a move to Alaves resulting in a time when that club went broke and necessitated a move back to Australia.

First stop was the Central Coast Mariners where Aloisi scored seven goals in 15 games before a two-year stint at Sydney FC highlighted by achieving the double in the 2009-10 season.

"The first year was disappointing of course, but the second finished on a high note for me personally because I scored a few goals, some important ones and ended up leading scorer there," Aloisi said.

"Winning the double was sweet because the year we had before that, not only myself, but the whole team performed."

Aloisi had been contemplating retirement, that was until van 't Schip came calling.

The decision to join Melbourne Heart is one Aloisi is glad he made, being the club's joint top-scorer during their debut Hyundai A-League season.

"I remember speaking to John last year when they were interested in bringing me here and I still wasn't sure I wanted to play on then," Aloisi said.

"He said to me he thought I still had what it takes to play a part in a new team, help the younger boys with my experience and score a few goals. He said to enjoy my football again."

"I've really enjoyed my football again - the training's been brilliant, the way we play is the type of football I like to play too and the boys have made it easier for me because we've got a good bunch here. The only thing is we would have liked to make the finals, but it didn't work out."

Aloisi's swansong coincides with that of another former Socceroo in Josip Skoko, with van 't Schip declaring Skoko would start after overcoming a knee injury suffered last week against Perth Glory.

In addition to bowing out with his great mate, Aloisi gets to finish against a club he has affection for in Sydney.

"We started together at the AIS as 16 year olds in 1992, I couldn't ask to end my career with anyone better - because Josip's a great player, great professional and very underrated as a player here in Australia," Aloisi said.

"It's nice to play against former team-mates and hopefully none of them kick me too much, I'd still like to train with my youth team next year. It's nice to finish against them because I left on great terms after winning the double, I've got a lot of friends at Sydney FC."

After hanging up the boots, Aloisi will move into coaching as the first boss of Melbourne Heart's youth team for season 2011-12.

Quizzed on the managers who have been his greatest influences, Aloisi named van't Schip, former Qantas Socceroos bosses Terry Venables and Guus Hiddink, and Mexican legend Javier Aguirre.

"In Spain I worked under Javier - he's probably the one I enjoyed working under the most over in Europe, I was with him for three years, had a great time and learned so much under him. He was also a great guy off the pitch," Aloisi said.

"There were a few good ones all of them I learnt something, some of them I learnt what not to do as a manager."

Kick-off is at 7pm.