Selfless Valeri bows out with no regrets

Selfless, hard-working and with no regrets. That’s how Carl Valeri has been right from the start of his professional career and how he plans to bow out in the coming months.

A veteran of more than 15 seasons playing professionally, and more than 50 caps for the Caltex Socceroos, confirmed on Friday that he will hang up his boots once Melbourne Victory’s 2018/19 campaign comes to an end.

Speaking at a media conference, an emotional Valeri reflected on a journey that started back in 2001 when he was named in the team of the tournament at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup.

At an event where the likes of future superstars Carlos Tevez and Fernando Torres first burst onto the scene, the Young Socceroos skipper was in illustrious company and was soon on his way to the very top level.

Growing up in Canberra a supporter of AC Milan, Valeri was signed by their city rivals Inter in 2002.

He would go on to spend a decade in Italian football, mainly in Serie B with SPAL, Grosseto, Sassuolo and Ternana.

“When you’re young you think you should be playing in Serie A with Juventus for your entire career. You’re a bit delusional as you have that drive and hunger,” Valeri said on Friday.

“But as get older you start to understand your strengths and have to adapt, and I had to change my style.

“It brought out the natural leader in me. I had to get the most out of the people around me to make myself a better player.

“As I got older I realised my place. I was in Serie A for six months and I was hanging on by my fingernails, they were a step above. I’m happy with the career I’ve had.”

And rightly so. In addition to his club career, Valeri also featured 52 times for the Caltex Socceroos after making his debut against China in 2007.

Carl Valeri scored a goal in Australia's semi final win over Uzbekistan at the 2011 Asian Cup
Carl Valeri scored a goal in Australia's semi final win over Uzbekistan at the 2011 Asian Cup

He became a consistent member of the squad from that point, starting all three matches at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

But it has been his move back to the Hyundai A-League with Melbourne Victory that has arguably heralded the most successful time in Valeri’s career.

He helped the club win the Championship-Premiership double in his first season in 2014/15, and also skippered them to the FFA Cup crown in 2015.

That 2014/15 campaign is the one he will probably look back on with the most fondness, after also claiming Victory’s 'player of the season' and 'goal of the season' awards.

HANGING THEM UP: Valeri calls time on football career
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From the moment he arrived in Melbourne, Valeri has been the cornerstone of the club’s success, with his leadership and fighting qualities repeatedly inspiring those around him.

It has not always been easy. He missed the majority of the 2015/16 Season with a debilitating inflammatory brain injury which affected his balance and speech.

Carl Valeri battles with Bastian Schweinsteiger at the 2010 World Cup
Carl Valeri battles with Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger at the 2010 FIFA World Cup

Happily fully recovered, Valeri has been back to his best over the last couple of seasons, guiding the club to another Championship in 2018 against the odds.

Those tough moments [in the 2017/18 campaign] were a big highlight for me. That’s where you get the most satisfaction, when you’re the underdogs,” Valeri explained.

“No one wants you to win and you end up coming out on top. That was a big highlight in my career.

“I don’t have any regrets. I’m happy with the decisions I’ve made and proud that I can say there’s nothing I regret.”

Aussies Abroad | Valeri into Serie A
Carl Valeri alongside James Troisi in Caltex Socceroos camp