It may seem outlandish to label Melbourne City star Bruno Fornaroli as the Hyundai A-League’s best-ever import after just one season in the competition. But Sunday proved that if he stays in the league, he could prove to be spoken of in the same breath as Berisha and Broich.
Fornaroli made it 25 goals in a remarkable season with two absolute gems in City’s hard-earned 2-0 Elimination Final win over Perth Glory at AAMI Park on Sunday.
The first was an acrobatic piece of skill just before half-time.
With the ball bouncing around in the Glory box, the ex-Sampdoria and Danubio striker produced an audacious bicycle kick past Ante Covic into the top corner.
Then with just a quarter of an hour to go the City hero produced a peach of a free-kick from about 25 yards out, bending the ball up and around into the corner of the net.
They were goals worthy of winning any game but the fact they happened in a sudden-death semi-final when the season is on the line makes them even more special.
It’s hard to remember a more dominant campaign from any individual in the 10 previous seasons in the Hyundai A-League.
Of course, the Hyundai A-League has been blessed with some exceptionally talented imports since the competition’s inception.
Three-time championship winners Thomas Broich and Besart Berisha have been doing it for a number of years and also scored in the Finals Series this weekend.
But if "The Prickly Pear" can take City all the way to the title and maintain his incredible scoring record in years to come, there’s no question Fornaroli will be up there with the aforementioned for the title of the A-League’s best-ever import (and that includes Alessandro Del PIero).
While Fornaroli’s mastery stole the show on Sunday, City’s supporting cast deserve a lot of the credit for the win as well.
For much of the campaign it’s been the star South American striker as well as imperious Socceroo midfielder Aaron Mooy who have grabbed all the headlines for City.
Against Glory, coach John van ‘t Schip went with Paulo Retre and Jack Clisby in the full-back positions, while Ben Garuccio deputised for the suspended Harry Novillo on the left wing.
All three handled the occasion with aplomb, out-pointing their direct opponents to help give City the ascendency for much of the match.
But perhaps the best of them was midfielder Anthony Caceres.
The ex-Mariner had easily his best outing in a City shirt, buzzing around the midfield and looking dangerous whenever he got on the ball.
He didn’t do much wrong until he was substituted on 65 minutes, probably still feeling the effects of a bone-crunching challenge by Shane Lowry in the first half in which the Glory defender was perhaps lucky to only receive a yellow card.
But it hardly slowed Caceres down as he continued to link up well with the likes of Fornaroli, Mooy, Osama Malik and Nick Fitzgerald
City fans have been waiting for Caceres to deliver since he linked up with the side - on loan from parent-club Manchester City – in January.It’s taken a bit of time but the fact he’s managed to produce in the finals augurs well for what’s to come over – potentially – the next fortnight.