Josh Brillante is the November nomination for the NAB Young Footballer of the Year award after an excellent start to the Hyundai A-League season with Sydney FC. Here we chart his entire career - from Bundaberg to Italy then Sydney.
The crafty midfielder has been an ever-present for the Sky Blues and played a key role in their surge to the competition summit.
We chart the 23-year-old’s career progression from his early days growing up in Bundaberg to the present at high-flying Sydney FC.
The early days
One of four children, Brillante began playing football at just four years old at Bundaberg club Across The Waves in the same team as older brother Jack.
His father Giannino saw his talent very early and always played him a couple of years up in order to test his skills against older players.
While Brillante was exceptional at any sport he played as a junior, his big break in football came at just 15 when he made his senior debut at Bundaberg Spirit.
While he was naturally gifted, Brillante worked hard at everything to do with his game and would run 8kms every day to improve his fitness, as his father rode alongside him on his bike.
It was no surprise his ability was spotted by the Queensland Institute of Sport and the teenager made the decision to leave his family and friends and move to Brisbane to further his career.
He spent two seasons at the QAS before he was snapped up by the Gold Coast United Youth team to play in the NYL in 2009.
Transition to first-team football
It took just over a season at the Gold Coast for Brillante to force his way into the Hyundai A-League, making his debut midway through the 2010/11 Season in a 1-0 loss to North Queensland Fury.
The teenager only made 14 appearances for United in just under two seasons but showed he had the ability and temperament to make it as a professional.
When Gold Coast ended in 2012, Brillante moved to Newcastle Jets where his career really took off. He became a regular in the Hyundai A-League in the Hunter and while the team didn’t have the best results, his star continued to rise.
His consistent form led to a debut for the Caltex Socceroos in 2013 at the East Asian Championships but it was playing for the Young Socceroos at the 2013 U-20 World Cup in Turkey where he really stood out
A bearded Brillante scored with a thunderous 30-metre striker against El Salvador which got the attention of European scouts.
Two years abroad
Despite missing out on a spot in the final 23-man squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, Brillante disappointment soon subsided when he secured a dream move to Serie A club Fiorentina.
The early signs were promising as he starred in pre-season for the Viola – even scoring in a friendly against La Liga giants Real Madrid.
Selected for a shock starting debut in the season-opener against Roma, he was substituted after half an hour after a mis-placed pass resulted in the concession of a goal.
He would make just one more senior appearance for the club before spending time out on loan at Empoli and then Serie B side Como.
While it was a chastening experience for the youngster, he learned a lot about himself and his game which he has brought back to the Hyundai A-League with Sydney in the 2016/17 Season.
Brillante joined the Sky Blues in the hope of re-igniting his career. And just nine games into his Hyundai A-League return, he’s done just that.
Still sporting that exceptional beard, Brillante has returned to Australia a far more rounded midfielder, excellent both with and without the ball.
He’s played every minute of every round, with the highlight his long-range stunner against Brisbane Roar in Round 7, his first goal at senior level.
Alongside Brandon O’Neill – the NAB nominee for October – the pair have anchored Sydney’s midfielder superbly and laid the platform for the attackers to do their thing.
Brillante’s numbers are impressive. He’s made 470 passes at almost 82% accuracy, making 12 key passes, 17 tackles, 27 interceptions and 71 ball recoveries.A worthy contender for this season’s NAB Young Footballer of the Year award.