Meet the ex-Perth Glory youngster playing in Germany

Australian striker Stefan Valentini has no regrets about swapping Perth Glory for a crack at breaking into German football.

Western Australian product Valentini came through local clubs Stirling Panthers and Balcatta FC, and had a stint at South Melbourne, before joining Glory's youth team at the age of 18. He progressed to the first-team squad and made his debut aged 19 in the FFA Cup in 2015.

But after failing to get an opportunity in the A-League, in January 2016 Valentini decided to head overseas and chase his dream.

"After the few games in the FFA Cup I was hoping my performances would secure a part with the Glory moving forward, but unfortunately, the club signed two more young strikers and I was overlooked," the 21-year-old told The World Game.

"I then decided to try my luck overseas, through a local agent. I bought a one-way ticket to Germany, where I trialled with few clubs. One of those clubs, Eintracht Braunschweig, offered me my first professional contract for 18 months with their under-23's team."

Valentini spent 18 months with Eintracht Braunschweig in the Regionaliga Nord, Germany's fourth tier, after securing a contract through a trial.

“Eintracht Braunschweig was very professional, they had a plan to put me in accommodation and put me through German classes," he said.

"The first-team at Eintracht Braunschweig was challenging for promotion to the Bundesliga so players were being dropped down to the under-23's, which play in the Regionalliga North, so game-time became limited as I had to make way for these players.

"No matter how well I played, or how many goals I scored, but that's football. So I decided to move to a smaller club to ensure I could play first-team football."

In July last year he signed with TuS Erndtebruck. The club play in the Regionaliga West and the forward has scored nine goals in 29 appearances in all competitions this season.

Valentini believes that while leaving Perth was difficult, it was necessary for his career to progress. He said his development in Germany, both on and off the field, has accelerated rapidly in the past two years.

"Whilst I have some family close by, I was prepared for living away from home as I have been to Germany previously, when I was younger," he said.

"I dropped out of school to do this. It was a tough decision to leave my family, friends and my hometown comforts but at the end of the day it needed to happen to make football my life and career.

"There is the clichéd things such as becoming physically and mentally stronger, becoming fluent in German and maturing from a sheltered teen to an independent man. But the development on the pitch has come from what I have learnt off it.

"I've gone through very hard times when I have to deal with the issues myself. I am very fortunate the sacrifices my entire family made to get me over here but it forces me every day work that extra bit harder."

TuS Erndetbruck play in the fourth division against the reserve teams of the likes of Borussia Dortmund, Borussia Monchengladbach, Cologne, Fortuna Dusseldorf, Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke. Valentini has enjoyed the challenge and facing big clubs with established fanbases.

"One of my first tastes of football in this shirt was against Eintracht Frankfurt in front of 13,000 people booing us, which funnily enough was probably one of the best feelings I've had in my professional career," he said.

"Being new, no matter how good you might think you are you need to build that trust and need time. I then got my chance to get a string of games together, started to score and began to get more game time until our last four to five games got cancelled because of the weather.

"This was frustrating because I had just broken into the team. Then as chance goes I got injured so it was back to square one getting back to fitness and started the last nine games of the season."

Valentini has also been inspired by the exploits of his cousin, Nurnberg right-back Enrico Valentini.

"I speak to Enrico weekly, we are close and he is like an older brother to me," he said.

"I look up to him, I saw how hard he worked and he just got promoted to the 1.Bundesliga, which shows me hard work really pays off and gives me so much more motivation.

"At times when I'm down or frustrated all I need is a five-minute conversation with him and I'm feeling much better. But that goes to the whole family over here, each and every single one of them are supporting me, which I can't thank them enough."

Valentini's contract with TuS Erndtebruck ends next month. The attacker is unsure at this stage of where he will end up next, with a return to Australia possible.

"As my contract ends in June, I need to make the tough decision on whether to stay in Germany or test myself somewhere else in Europe," he said.

"If the right offer comes from the A-League, I'd definitely consider it."

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5 min read
Published 18 May 2018 at 9:44am
By John Davidson