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Ernest Muci exclusive: Learning from Lewandowski; following Wszolek and succeeding with Legia Warsaw

Ernest Muci has emerged in 2022 as among the most talented young players to come out of Albania in recent times.

The young centre-forward has already made important steps in his career despite his young age, playing for major clubs in Albania like Dinamo and Tirana, and also in Europe with Legia Warsaw.

At 21, Muci is a veteran, having started his pro career with Dinamo when he was 16 years old before moving to city rivals KF Tirana.

He recalled to "I was 16 years old when I moved from Dinamo to KF Tirana and the academy and then 6 months later the first team called my family and they said that I could go for the preparation to Antalya with the first team. I was so excited.

"After we came back to Albania, I made my debut against Shkumbini and I had too much emotions and I was feeling so proud for my name to be on the shirt, it was my first shirt!"

Of course as a striker, Muci still well remembers his first goal in senior football.

"It was the 3rd of March 2018," Muci proudly tells us. "I scored my first goal against ShenKolli. With big club like Tirana, it was a dream come true at that age.

"We went back to the first division, to Superliga. I was very happy to be part of that team and then everything happened like it happened and we won the championship and I scored may goals. t was really really proud to be part of that team."

Now with Legia in Poland, Muci is gaining more and more admirers from home and abroad.

"I am happy that people say to me that I am one of the most talented football players in Albania, but I don't want to be just a talent I want to show more and more myself for the national team and my club, Legia. I am still young 21, but I must do more and more work so I can be the best version of myself."

Reflecting on his move to Poland last year, Muci says the chance to join Legia was one he didn't hesitate to accept. That Legia were willing to bid for him during the January window was something flattering.

"In January 2021, my agent told me that Legia Warsaw was interested in me and I directly said to him 'Ok, make it happen!'. Then we spoke to Tirana and the transfer went true and I was so happy to move to this big club. It was one of my dreams since I started playing football to play for big club outside of Albania so it was really a dream come true for me.

"I chose Legia because the team was champion of Poland, they play in Europe it was a really a good opportunity for me to show myself, and be part of a big club with a big history and that's why I didn't think twice when they called to me."

Now with winner's medals in his trophy cabinet as a Legia player, Muci continued: "The experience in Legia this last two years have been very good for me.

"We've won one championship. Though the last season was not the best for us. In terms of personal form, I am doing well for my team, and now we are back this season in a good way to fight for the championship.

"I think that the team is really stable, we are together and the atmosphere is really good."

At Legia, Muci shares a dressing room with former Nottingham Forest fullback Yuri Ribeiro and ex-QPR winger Pawel Wszolek.

"I am very happy to have these teammates at Legia. They are so experienced players and they've played in good leagues. They are two of my best role-models. They work so hard and they are very polite with everyone.

"I am very happy to have so many good players to look up to and study every day. I know I must learn from them."

With his club career on track, Muci admits breaking into the senior Albania team over the past 12 months has been another childhood dream fulfilled.

"I was very happy to make my debut against Andorra (in November 2021) here in my city in Tirana. I think it is a dream for every player to play for their their country. There were no fans, so to now play in front of our fans was something I really wanted."

Albania played two friendly matches against Italy and Armenia this month. The young striker played from the first minute against Armenia, and was on the bench for the match against Italy.

"I think for Albania it was a good test to play against Italy, the champions of Europe. The players that they have are amazing and for me it was a good experience to watch them play. It was a good test for us."

Looking forward, Muci continued: "I think that the draw for Euro24 is a good one for us. We must work hard and be together on this road we have. We have a big chance to be in the Euros in Germany. My personal aim is to be part of the team, and give my best every time I play. or the country it is very important for us to achieve our objective and try to be qualified for the group stage."

Asked about a role-model, Muci's answer was quick and clear given his Polish connection.

"I like to watch Lewandowsky play. I think he is very smart in the way he moves around the box. I think he is one of the best in that position, I try to learn as much as possible."

Such is the growth of Albanian football in recent years that Muci is just one of many of his generation now playing in leagues across Europe, including Serie A and the Premier League. And he admits to regular conversations with teammates about their experiences.

But Legia fans need not worry. For the moment, Muci is fully committed to the Poles - though he will keep the door open for the future.

"Yes, all of my friends that I had in under 19 and 21 that are now in good clubs and good championships, I have spoken to them, they say to me to keep working and you never know in football.

"Now I am focused more on Legia and I must give my 100% every time I play, I hope to have the best results with Legia and then we will see what will happen..."

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Xhulio Zeneli

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