Caltex Socceroos legend Aloisi on Zidane, Messi and Serie A

Before he was immortalised in Australian sporting history, John Aloisi had already broken new ground as one of the nation’s finest footballing exports.

He remains the only local product to have appeared in each of the Premier League, Serie A and La Liga and forged a reputation as a man for the big occasion.

Aloisi ended his career in the Hyundai A-League having etched his name on scoresheets at the World Cup, the Confederations Cup, the Asian Cup and the Olympic Games.

We caught up with the current Brisbane Roar boss to find out how his happy knack of crucial goals prepared him for his 2005 heroics, and why even a rising Lionel Messi could not compare to a Real Madrid legend he once helped stun.

“Even at 17 you could tell Messi was going to be something special,” Aloisi told of his one-time opponent.

“And as a striker, you couldn’t stop the Brazilian Ronaldo. But for me, Zinedine Zidane stood out.

“He was so elegant the way he played, he would glide past players. He was just so much better than everyone else.

French legend Zinedine Zidane.

“To beat Real Madrid at the Bernabeu [with Osasuna in 2004] when they had all the Galacticos, and pretty convincingly at 3-0, was one of the biggest moments in the club’s history.

“It was a privilege to play against those players. But when you’re out there, you’re competing and you don’t think about how good they are.

“My time with Osasuna was probably my biggest highlight at club level. The first year I was there I scored a goal to save the team from relegation.

“A couple of years later we ended up making the Spanish Cup final for the first time in our history. I scored the equaliser late in the game but unfortunately we lost against Real Betis in extra-time.”

Aloisi's Osasuna celebrate a goal in their 3-0 win over Real Madrid in 2004.

Aloisi capped that campaign with a stunning pair of braces against powerhouses Germany and Argentina at the 2005 Confederations Cup, giving him the belief he “could score against anyone”.

His fine individual displays also helped ease the pain of a quarter-final exit from the Athens Olympics, where the South Australian outscored a 19-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo.

“I thought we had a great opportunity to win a medal and to get knocked out in extra-time against Iraq was a massive let-down,” the ex-Portsmouth and Coventry striker remembers.

“At the time we hadn’t qualified for the World Cup for so long and I thought that was our big moment as a nation gone. We were pretty upset.

“Overall the Olympic experience was a good one, but there weren’t the crowds you would get at the World Cup.

“With a World Cup, the country stops and the rest of the world is watching.”

John Aloisi in action at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

And with the dream finally realised on that famous night in November 2005, all that remained was to put on a show in Germany.

“We got through a tough group but the way we performed was even more satisfying. We played some really good football,” Aloisi recalls.

“When you look back, you just think ‘what a tournament’, ‘what an achievement’.

“We knew we had a good squad, we were confident we could do something and we did.”

John Aloisi