MB: Another important time of the career, the return leg now of the season and knowing that the World Cup is coming up. Everyone will be hoping that they’re playing and hoping that they’ll be fit and injury free.
Goal: Has it been difficult for you over the season to have to play under two different managers [Walter Zenga was sacked earlier on in the season]? It’s something you’re familiar with at Palermo as it seems there are managers coming and going constantly at the club.
MB: I haven’t got used to it. I always find it hard when there’s a change of coaches. You probably get attached a bit to a coach, you get used to the style and methods of training and all of a sudden things change all over again and you’ve got to adapt to new styles and systems. I haven’t got used to it and it’s something that I don’t really like either, being in that situation.
Goal: At one stage during the 2006-07 season you played under two different managers – twice each! [Stefano Colantuono and Francesco Guidolin] What’s that like for a player? You simply don’t find it at other clubs...
MB: I don’t know – it’s just very hard mentally for a player to stay focused. When you’ve got so many changes in a season, I find it very hard.
Goal: Is that managerial instability something you’ve found throughout your time in Italy or is it unique to Palermo?
MB: I think it’s just unique to Palermo. It happens a lot all around Europe when coaches get sacked but here in Palermo it happens probably a bit too much. The president probably has high expectations of the coaches and as soon as they don’t perform he finds a solution.
Goal: A lot of people don’t know about your president, Maurizio Zamparini but what’s it like playing in his club?
MB: All the players love playing under him. It’s good to have a president who has such high expectations and goals for us to achieve.
Goal: Was the managerial instability at Palermo a factor in your decision to try and leave Italy, most famously with Manchester City?
MB: Not really. It wasn’t about the change of coaches. I think the big [moment] was in that derby game against Catania when one of the policemen got killed; that really topped it off and made me want to leave. But I’m back now enjoying it and I don’t want to leave Italy.
Goal: Is Italy somewhere you can see yourself finishing your career?
MB: I would love to because it’s a great place, I enjoy living here and I’ve spent eleven years here and have gotten used to it. But at the same time I’d like to have another experience somewhere else, I don’t know where or when but I think I would like to go to another country and maybe compare it and try something different.
Goal: A lot of people will automatically point to the English Premier League as one of those countries. Is the EPL a carrot that dangles in front of you, a temptation with it’s financial strength and high quality of competition?
Bresciano And Grella | "We're Like Brothers"
MB: It always has been but I’ll be honest with you, I don’t have that big desire now that I had a couple of years ago. A couple of years ago I was on fire to try it but now, obviously I’d still love to go there and try it out but I haven’t got that huge desire.
Goal: What’s the reason for that?
MB: I think I’ve just managed to start enjoying the football back here again and I haven’t got that urge to get out of here and try and try to find a better road and be happier.
Goal: There were even reports of you leaving for Saudi Arabia at the beginning of the season. Were they close to the mark? Because that’s a totally different place to consider...
MB: [Laughs] Yeah, it’s a bit different! I don’t know how true those rumours were, nothing really directly came back to me. I’m the type of person that likes to experience anything; wherever the right place is, mainly for the family as well, I’d consider going.
Goal: Despite all the rumours that you’ve had around you during virtually your entire time at Palermo, is Italy somewhere you’ve been shaped as a footballer and person?
MB: Yeah. It’s been a big part mainly of my football style. I was only 18 when I came over to Italy so I was still growing up and learning the methods, style, preparation and the mentality. I haven’t played anywhere else apart from Australia so obviously it’s had a big impact on my style of football and the way I am today.
Goal: Does being the only Serie A-based star now that Vince Grella has left for England allow you to bring something different to the Australian national team?
MB: I’m not sure about that. Maybe you do bring something different to the team but because we’ve been playing together for so long in the Socceroos, we know each other so well having grown up together also in the Olympic team and even in the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport), when we get together we know each other’s style of football.
Goal: Guus Hiddink was someone who came in and changed the way Australia played football. Can you draw any comparisons between Hiddink and his successor Pim Verbeek?
MB: Obviously it’s a privilege playing under both of them. I think they’re two different characters. With Pim, you’ll find he’s a much more approachable character; we consider Pim to be one of us. He’s very understanding and we all consider him to be a good manager - as good as Guus was.
Goal: I imagine it was a totally different environment under Hiddink – a little more cut-throat, perhaps?
MB: You could say that – a bit more tension. It’s probably just the way he went about doing his own thing, putting the players under pressure.
Goal: Verbeek tends to get criticized a fair bit by analysts – is that a little unfair?
MB: I think it’s very unfair. Qualifying for the World Cup through Asia, we didn’t know what to expect and a lot of those away games were very difficult. There were difficult situations and circumstances but we made it to the World Cup and that’s the most you can ask for – and we did it without losing a game [in the second group stage]. What more could you ask from him?
Goal: In terms of the style of football being played at the moment, have people been a bit spoiled by the style brought by Hiddink? It’s obviously easy to call for an attractive brand of football as a fan or analyst but when you’re out there in Asia, it’s more difficult.
MB: It makes it a lot more difficult. The way you play depends on your opponent; I think the Socceroos play better football when they play against bigger opponents. When you do play in Asia, the teams we come up against are just defending and make it very hard for us to play our style of football. Whereas when you play against the bigger teams they play as well, which gives us more space to play and do our own thing. It’s always harder when you’re the favourite and the underdog just closes up everything and doesn’t allow you to play.
Goal: I guess that’s something that you need to learn and adapt to as footballers; maybe it’s something that caught you a little off guard at the Asian Cup in 2007?
MB: Of course, you have to change. But a team should have that ability to know when to change and what style of football to play. At the end of the day, it’s the result that counts and we’ve been getting the results. I would rather play bad and win than play good and lose. Sometimes the style of football has to be changed depending on the opponent.
Goal: It’s an interesting point you make about the Socceroos struggling against teams perceived to be the underdogs, who ‘shut up shop’ but being able to open up against the big teams. Is that something you plan to use to your advantage against a team like Germany at the World Cup?
MB: These are the games where we come up and step up; when both teams come out and play for the result, that’s when the style of football and the flair comes out a bit more because obviously the game’s going to be much more open. You’ll be able to do the things that you’re good at, too attack more, have more opportunities and score more goals.
Goal: Will it be a similar game to the one against Brazil at the World Cup in Germany in 2006? That was a game where the Socceroos, for 30 minutes, opened up against Brazil.
MB: We hope so! Hopefully we can get a better result that the one against Brazil! Obviously we’re going to give it our best, play very open and try to get the result. I think we’ll have a good game on our hands.
Goal: Of course another big World Cup for Australia would boost the reputation of Australian players abroad. Tell us about the impact of the Socceroos’ performance at the last World Cup. Did people respect you more at clubs because you made it that far against Italy?
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MB: There was much more respect. The first year that we came to Italy, people didn’t even know we played football in Australia. From that to playing Italy in a World Cup and giving them a red-hot girl, we gained massive respect all over Europe I think as a nation. The success of 2006 had an impact all around the world.
Goal: Your last memory of the 2006 World Cup will no doubt be that penalty by Totti. You were involved in the build-up to the goal: is there a sense of unfinished business for you personally and for the team in South Africa?
MB: I don’t seek revenge or anything like that; I’m just focused to do well and take one thing at a time, hopefully get out of the group stages and see who our next opponent is. We’re not going to go there with the ‘revenge’ idea.
Goal: Focusing now on your time in Italy, specifically your time at Parma, where you came to the club with the likes of Adriano, Mutu and Giraldino. Did you feel at the time that you had a lot of responsibility on your shoulders coming into the club with such a crop of huge stars?
MB: You’ve always got responsibility regardless of which team or which players are there. It was a very good team back then, with very good players. I was young and full of energy, I didn’t really get weighed down that much by responsibility. Even now I still enjoy my football and every game I play.
Goal: Do you still look back at Parma with fond memories, as a special place for you? It’s the club where you really rose up in Italy and made a name for yourself...
MB: Yeah, of course. It was one of the highlights of my career and I still look back because I had good times there.
Goal: Was it difficult to leave Parma in such circumstances as the club was in, with the difficulties they were experiencing off the pitch?
MB: Yes and no. No because a lot of things changed when I was there, with the president and the bankruptcy of Parmalat. It was a different Parma in the last two years that I was there so in that sense it wasn’t that hard to leave.
Goal: Tell us a little bit about what it’s like to have to move between different clubs and cities in Italy. Each city no doubt has it’s own culture, way of life and fans.
MB: Depending on which city you go to, a lot of things can change. The fans and the way of living, it’s something that you learn to live with. Your job is to play football and win games and if things go well, everything subsequently goes well.
Goal: A lot of players talk about the difficulty of adapting to a new life in a new country, particularly when they first arrive. Was that the case when you arrived in Italy as a teenager?
MB: I found it very hard. I found it very hard for the first couple of years and was thinking about coming back to Australia because I didn’t want to stay here anymore. Everything is totally different. Even the way they speak: I thought I could understand how to speak Italian and then I came here and it was like another language. With the language, the culture, the mentality of the people, I found it very hard.
Goal: What was it that made you want to come back specifically? Was it that you couldn’t settle, that your football wasn’t going the way you wanted it to?
MB: I couldn’t settle, I didn’t have anyone here. I found it hard to break into the team as well and wasn’t playing much football – and being lonely.
Goal: What made you want to stay in Italy?
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MB: I don’t know – I didn’t want to give up. I said to myself ‘Just keep going, don’t lose that easy, keep battling’ and thank God that I stayed on.
Goal: You’ve mentioned family in this interview already, I assume that’s become a central part of your life in Italy?
MB: It’s everything. It gives you that stability, that hunger to hang in knowing that you’ve got your family there. It gives you a better life. Sometimes the things that maybe could have weighed you down in a football situation when you’re on your own like having a bad training session or having a bad game, going back home and seeing your kids makes it so much easier. You don’t live with that much pressure.
Goal: At Palermo now you’ve got a few rising stars around you, the likes of Javier Pastore, Simon Kjaer and Fabrizio Miccoli. The Serie A doesn’t get quite as much coverage down here as it once did – tell us a bit about the players your playing around.
MB: The quality is very, very, very good. Technically with the ball it’s very high and the work ethic that they have, they’re good trainers, hard trainers and have a desire to win every game.
Goal: Do you buy into the argument that the Italian league is on the decline now?
MB: I’m not sure. I haven’t played in another league so don’t really have anything to compare it to. I just think the players that are leaving the Serie A, with them you lose that little bit of quality. Compared to last season, losing Ibrahimovic or Kaka for example makes a big difference.
Goal: Kjaer and Pastore are already being linked with moves away from your club. Are they destined to be at the very top? Would it be a shame if the Italian league lost those sort of players?
MB: It would be a big shame if they lost these kinds of players. They’re great talents, they’re very young and they’ve got a very big future ahead of them.
Goal: You’ve been with Vince Grella for a large part of your career, growing up together, then going through the AIS and playing at the same clubs in Italy. Will you two link up again? It seems like fate that you will!
MB: We’re always in contact. You could almost say we’re brothers because we grew up together and almost completed a whole football career together. I think fate will repeat itself and one day we’ll be playing again together. Wherever it may be, maybe when we finish our careers.
Goal: How important was it to have Vince over here with you in Italy, particularly during the early years where you struggled?
MB: It was very, very important. It made it a lot easier knowing that you’ve got someone that you know there and that the person you know is a good friend of yours. It was a big help for me in every way.
Goal: The two of you came through the Australian Institute of Sport together – how important was that to your development as a footballer?
MB: We were so young and I think it had a massive impact in our careers, just in terms of learning the best way to prepare ourselves, the diet, the training methods and stuff like that. It was very important for us.
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