Astrit Ajdarevic exclusive: My big Liverpool regret; loving Charlton; treasuring AEK and their fans

Tribal Football
Astrit Ajdarevic exclusive: My big Liverpool regret; loving Charlton; treasuring AEK and their fans
Astrit Ajdarevic exclusive: My big Liverpool regret; loving Charlton; treasuring AEK and their fans
Astrit Ajdarevic exclusive: My big Liverpool regret; loving Charlton; treasuring AEK and their fansFlashscore
It takes a lot more than talent to make it in the Premier League and Ajdarevic admits that he didn't apply himself in the way the likes of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres did in Liverpool training. He would never make an appearance for Liverpool and after a difficult spell at Leicester City, Ajdarevic returned to Sweden in the hope of getting his career back on track.

After two years back in his home country, Ajdarevic signed for Belgian side Standard Liege in the summer of 2012 with the hope of progressing his career at a bigger club. But despite a good start to life in Belgium, as time went on, he fell out of favour and was loaned out to Charlton in the Championship in January 2014.

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Despite enjoying life in England, Ajdarevic's career was a constant cycle of change and outside of Sweden, he struggled to hold down a first team place. But when AEK Athens come knocking, the Greek side went as far as giving him the number 6 shirt and in just his second month in Athens Ajdarevic scored and produced a man of the match display against rivals Olympiacos.

It might not have been the perfect spell, but competing for titles and playing Europa League football was surely the highest point in the Swede's career.

We caught up with Ajdarevic back in his native Sweden to discuss his career and his current plans.

First of all, can you tell me about what it was like training with the likes of Steven Gerrard and your experience in Liverpool's academy in general?

"The most impressive experience for me was at Liverpool because I was only 17 years old when I went to play for that big club. I made many mistakes during my experience there because I thought that just due to my talent, I would achieve everything. But after I realised that it's not only talent, but you also need to work hard every day to achieve the things you want.

"During my time there I had the chance to train with Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso, Fernando Torres, and I witnessed with my eyes what hard work and professionalism meant every day. And I am sure that if I would have had more patience and would have done that extra work more, I would have stayed there and continued playing at the highest level."

Out of the stars you trained with at Liverpool or at any other stage in your career, who was the best player you played with and who is the best player you have played against?

"The best player I have played with is without any doubt Steven Gerrard, he was just the number one for me. The things he did for that long is no coincidence, but it shows what kind of player he was.

"The strongest opponent I have faced was Diego the Brazilian midfielder who I played against when he was part of Wolfsburg. He was so technical and had wonderful skills with the ball but also, he was strong from a physical point of view".

What would you say was the most difficult and then the best time in your playing days?

"The most difficult experience for me was in Belgium at Standard Liege. I arrived there because the coach wanted me but after several weeks the coach got fired and after a short period of 1 year, there were 3 other coaches.

"In that summer I arrived with 4 other players at the club and after firing the coach that brought us, the club wanted me to leave the club due to my high wages. Due to this, I wasn't the same player there, I couldn't give my all for the club and I wasn't anymore the positive guy that I always am.

"Regarding the best experience, I can say that I have had several ones where I enjoyed myself like in Greece, in Sweden, in England. But if I have to choose, I would say the experience in Greece at AEK Athens and the experience in the UK at Charlton Athletic."

Can you tell us more about your difficult time in Belgium with Standard Liege?

"Listen I will not lie about my experience and time there; it was not a good experience for me. I started very well but after 12-13 weeks of the season things started the change in a bad way.

"I will not say that it was 100% their fault because I also maybe should have done things differently.

"Belgium is a physical league with very strong players and direct football. The style of football there were more long balls, a 1vs1 situation and that didn't suit me and another difficulty for me was the fact that in the beginning I didn't know to speak French so yeah it was not a good experience for me."

You mentioned AEK Athens as being one of the better periods of your career, can you tell me more about your time there and your experiences?

"When I went to AEK, the club was passing through difficult years. When I arrived there the only objective at the club was to bring back AEK to the levels the club deserved.

"It was a magnificent experience where we achieved the title after 24 years and I still remember the moment when we went out into the city to celebrate with the fans and more than 100,000 people waiting for us and celebrating with us.

"After the title then the club got better and better, a huge investment was made there, and a new stadium was built. So, in the end I can say I am proud to have been part of that great club and to have achieved what we achieved."

What have you made of your former club Leicester and their promotion chasing season?

"Enzo Maresca has done a wonderful job there; he has implemented his philosophy to the players. The good thing there is that Leicester are not only winning but winning through a beautiful style of play and this has attracted more fans.

"He has a great character, and he is very clear on what he wants to achieve with his team, you can see that from the way he behaves, from the way how he talks during the interviews.

"Their fans are amazing, also the city is beautiful plus they have a wonderful stadium, and I am sure they will be back in the Premier League."

And how about your other former club Liverpool, what are your thoughts on how Klopp's final season has been?

"Liverpool this season are doing great and they are playing very well. Klopp has changed a lot this season in midfield, now we have a new midfield in the team with players like Szoboszlai, Mac Allister, and despite this huge change the team has improved, and they are there to win titles again and this is thanks to Jurgen. Also, their three attackers are just so strong, and not a lot of teams in Europe have those attackers who combine well with each other and have different qualities."

Your one senior international cap was with Albania after playing for Sweden's youth teams. Albania have qualified for this summer's European Championship, what have you made of their achievements under manager Sylvinho and how far can they go at the Euros?

"What this team has achieved is unbelievable and will not be forgotten. We saw for the first time at Euro 2016 what it meant for fans all around the world to participate in a tournament like this. And I am sure it will be the same this time for the Albanian fans.

"Also, we should not forget that this team is very strong with young talented players. So, we should put a little bit of pressure on the players for more because why should we be happy because we qualified for the Euros when we have very good players, and a very good coach?

"We need to have higher objectives this time and try to qualify from our group. In football not always the strongest teams go through, for example, Greece in 2004 won the tournament despite the fact they weren't the strongest team. We should enjoy our moment and try our best and you never know what may happen."

And finally, can you talk about what you are doing these days and what you want for your future?

"Now I am here in Sweden working as a pundit on TV for the Champions League and Serie A.

"Also, I work for a club in the third division where I am the sporting director, our goal is to create history with this club, and I hope we can win the league this season. For the moment I am working on these things because I wanted some peace. After all, I have a family with 3 kids, so I need to think about them also not only for me.

"My plan for the future is to get better and better and to achieve the highest levels of European football."

- adapted by Harry Dunnett