The A-League powerhouse have announced the capture of the competition's most dangerous forward in a stunning coup. What does it mean for their veteran striker?Melbourne Victory's stunning signing of Brisbane striker Besart Berisha is the strongest sign yet that the Archie Thompson-era at the club is drawing to a close.
Thompson's contribution to Victory over the last nine seasons has been greater than any other individual to an A-League club and if anyone deserves to choose where his journey should end, it is him.
But with his current contract set to expire at the end of the season, Thompson may be forced to contemplate the end, if not a much diminished role within the team, after the bold decision to sign the Albanian.
Upon news that Berisha had agreed to join Victory from the start of the 2014-15 season, the question that was immediately raised was 'when was the last time Victory signed an out-and-out striker?'
The club has forged a reputation in recent seasons of signing attacking talents which are as much advanced midfielders or wingers rather than designated strikers. Think Robbie Kruse, Marco Rojas and more recently, Kosta Barbarouses and James Troisi.
The change in approach under Ange Postecoglou saw Victory opt for a cluster of four forward players rather than a designated striker supported by others. Thompson still had a role within that, but the days of him playing up front with a supporting big man - i.e. Danny Allsopp - are long past.
Outside of Thompson and Allsopp, the only 'striker' Victory have signed in recent years was Jean Carlos Solorzano, who had a fruitless 14-game spell with the club in 2011-12.
But while there is no doubting the array of attacking talent Kevin Muscat has at his disposal, the one thing Victory have lacked is a finisher and, along with Shane Smeltz, Berisha is the A-League's best.
Opta stats tell us that Troisi leads the league in shots (46) this year - he has seven goals - but there is no other Victory player in the top 18 in terms of making chances.
Historically, it is a big step for the club to take to make one player - an international marquee - the one responsible for turning that around, but Berisha's record speaks for itself. He has scored six goals in just nine games this season and created 27 scoring chances.
Of even greater significance is that Berisha is just 28, the age when most strikers are reaching the peak of their career. When Thompson first kitted up for Victory, he was a couple of months shy of his 27th birthday.
Since that time, Victory has scored 355 goals, of which Thompson has scored an astonishing 20.5 per cent (73). If Berisha can match that output, a new golden era could be dawning under Muscat.
As much as the 'Merrick-era' of dominance was defined on the field by the presence of Muscat as captain, it was always defined by the energy and potency of Thompson in front of goal. His five-goal effort in the 2006-07 Grand Final will long rank as the greatest individual performance in a national league match.
But while it is not time to write the obituary on Archie's brilliant career just yet - he could even yet figure in the World Cup squad - it is worth considering whether he and Berisha could operate in tandem in a club environment.
The man himself will likely have to decide whether he is prepared to play the bit-part role, or whether this is the end of the road for one of the most influential and entertaining figures in the A-League's short history.
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