Melbourne Heart defender Aziz Behich hopes his move to the Turkish Superl Lig will help him cement an extraordinary four year transformation, from a teenager whose career looked on the scrapheap to playing in a World Cup in 2014.
Behich was due to fly to Turkey on Tuesday night to join Bursaspor, the club with which he won the Turkish championship in 2010. He becomes the latest in the conveyor belt of young talent Heart has sold off to overseas clubs.
It’s been good for the club’s bank balance _ it is believed Heart will earn around $400,000 from his sale, helping it to shore up its financial position.
But stability comes at a price on the pitch as the loss of their first choice left back, who recently won his first international cap, will weaken them ahead of the derby against Melbourne Victory on Saturday night.
The move to Turkey will pit Behich against high quality opposition week in and week out and should, if he can establish a first team place, help him cement his claims to be Holger Osieck’s first choice left back for the World Cup qualifiers later this year and the competition itself if the Socceroos qualify.
For a young man of Turkish extraction the chance to play against the likes of Galatasaray (Bursaspor’s opponents on Saturday), Besiktas and Fenerbahce is, as Behich said on Tuesday afternoon, ‘‘a dream come true’’.
‘‘It’s what I have wanted to do since I was a little kid so it is fantastic. It’s all come about very quickly. I knew there was interest but its all really happened in the last 24 hours. I am flying out tonight,’’ Behich said as he farewelled family and friends at his parents Broadmeadows home.
‘‘It’s a good league with some great players and tough opposition but I will back myself in in any situation. I am really looking forward to it and the chance to improve my game.’’
Behich joined Heart in its inaugural season having been thrown a lifeline by its first coach, John Van’t Schip.
The now 22-year-old had been an attacking midfielder or winger with Melbourne Victory’s youth team and had been elevated to the first team squad by Ernie Merrick, where he was often used off the bench. He came on in the grand final loss to Sydney in 2010 and missed a late chance to seal the win for the navy blues, and his cards seemed to be marked with Victory after that.
He was released by the club and was playing in the Victorian Premier League when Van’t Schip took a chance on him, deciding to convert him to a left back.
He has made remarkable progress since then.
‘‘To make a move to a club that plays Champions League football is a dream come true and I really can’t thank Melbourne Heart enough for giving me this opportunity. I will miss the fans and miss being around my old team-mates,’’ Behich said.
Heart coach John Aloisi said he was disappointed to lose Behich, but did not want to stand in his way.
“To take Aziz from the state leagues of Victoria to face the likes of Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder is something Melbourne Heart can be enormously proud of. It hurts to lose him at this stage of the season but how can you stand in the way of a player fulfilling his dreams.
“It’s a great opportunity for the club to continue to grow and a chance for Aziz to establish himself as a genuine international for Australia.”
Since June 2012, Melbourne Heart has transferred youngsters Eli Babalj, Curtis Good, Brendan Hamill and now Behich to leading international clubs despite the quartet having only five A-League games between them prior to joining Melbourne Heart.
Babalj has just returned to the club, his former employer Red Star Belgrade having failed to meet all the financial demands of the transfer.