Today it has become customary to see many Albanian footballers play in Italy. For years now players like Strakosha, Hysaj, Memushaj, Djimsiti and Berisha have been protagonists every week with their teams.
In recent years, several others have added to them such as the younger Ndoj and Kumbulla, thus expanding the colony of Albanian footballers who played in Italy, a category that until the early 2000s had very few names.
Until the fall of the Communist dictatorial regime of Enver Hoxha, in fact, only four Albanian footballers had played in Italy (all before the advent of communism in Albania): Naim Krieziu, Riza Lushta, Loro Boriçi and Sebahudin Biçaku. Names less publicized but who have nevertheless written important pages of their clubs, as well as many other Albanian players over the years.
For this, we wanted to draw up a list of the ten best Albanian footballers who played in Italy. The list does not include players currently active in Italy.
The Albanian player with the most appearances in the history of the national team (93) certainly needs no introduction. From 2011 to 2015 he wore the Lazio white and blue shirt, with which he won an Italian Cup in 2013 in the final derby against Roma (on the field for the entire 90 minutes).
In his Capitoline parenthesis, Cana has also made four goals including the wonderful overthrow against Fiorentina in 2014.
It is not the classic cover name especially because among the players on the list he is the only one who has never played in Serie A but only in Serie B, Serie C and Serie D. However, he was the first Albanian footballer to beat the heart of Italian fans after almost half a century of absence of Albanian footballers in Italy.
Over 100 career goals scored between Serie B, Serie C and Serie D, with the magic of Reggiolo, Sassuolo, Cesena, Verona, Arezzo, Sorrento and, above all, Teramo. But also 25 appearances and 3 goals with the national team jersey.
Loro Boriçi's talent was inversely proportional to his performance in Italy. Today remembered as one of the strongest Albanian footballers ever, he failed to establish himself in the Bel Paese with the Lazio shirt with which he collected only 18 appearances and 3 goals between 1941 and 1943.
He returned to Albania where he won four championships with the Vllaznia and Partizani jerseys but above all he won, as captain and top scorer, the Balkan Cup of 1946 with the National team.
The current sports director of Lazio has worn the shirts of Brescia, Bologna and the Biancocelesti themselves in Italy. One of the pupils par excellence of Carlo Mazzone, he made 31 goals in Serie A including the one with Bologna in the play-off salvation at Parma of the 2004-2005 season, a goal frustrated by the rossoblu defeat suffered at home in the return match.
In the 2005 he passes to Lazio, the most important stage of his career, not so much for the three years as a footballer (four goals in total, including a good overturned run for Ascoli) but for what will follow as a managerial role in the role of area coordinator technical-sporting director.
Together with Tare, Bogdani was the pioneer of Albanian footballers in Serie A in modern football of the 2000s. During his career he wore the shirts of Reggina, Salernitana, Verona, Siena, Chievo, Livorno, Cesena and Siena.
The current Albania Under-19 manager recorded his most prolific season in 2004-2005 with the Hellas Verona shirt in Serie B, where he scored 17 goals in 39 games. With 18 goals, it is the Albanian footballer who has made the most goals in the history of the national team.
It was the very first Albanian footballer - together with Riza Lushta - to land in the Italian championship in 1939, after Mussolini's troops had invaded the Land of the Eagles. Fast attacking exterior, in his career he wore the shirts of Rome (from 1939 to 1947 also winning the 1941-42 championship), Naples (from 1947 to 1953 winning the Serie B championship of 1949-1950) and Turris.
By performance Migjen Basha was certainly among the best Albanian players who played in Italy. Discovered when he played in Switzerland by Lucchese, the former Albanian national has been playing for more than 10 years in Serie A and Serie B clubs, including Bari, Como, Atalanta, Frosinone, Rimini and, in particular, Torino.
From 2013 to 2019, after a long bureaucratic battle for the recognition of the Albanian passport, he was a staple of Albania with which he played the 2016 European Championships.
Like Krieziu, after the annexation of Albania to the Kingdom of Italy, Riza Lushta moved to Italy where he started playing in Bari. Here he is noticed by Juventus, who bought it on the eve of the 1940-1941 season. With the Bianconeri Lushta scores 46 goals, also winning the title of top scorer (8 goals) of the 1941-1942 Italian Cup.
At the end of the Second World War, he moved to Naples. In blue it does not repeat itself on the levels reached with Juventus and is sold the following summer to Alexandria. In Italy he will also wear the shirts of Siena, Forlì and Rapallo Ruentes.
Few will remember it, but in the 2006-2007 season Ervin Skela played seven games in Serie A with the Ascoli shirt. Italy was certainly not his "El Dorado", unlike Germany where between 1996 and 2006 he made himself known with the shirts of Union Berlin, Aue, Eintracht Frankfurt, Arminia Bielefeld and Kaiserslautern.
During his career he also made 75 appearances (fourth in the all-time ranking) and 13 goals with the Albanian national team shirt, between 2000 and 2011.
At a youth level, Rey Manaj has certainly been the greatest promise of Albanian football in recent years. He made himself known to the great Italian clubs in the youth clubs of Sampdoria and Cremonese. With the latter he became first team holder in 2014, attracting the attention of all the big names in Serie A.
Inter managed to take him home for about 500.000 euros, but with the neroazzurri the 1997 class did not respect the expectations ending up on loan and not impressing in the following years in Pescara, Pisa and Spain in Granada. In January of this year he switched to Barcelona B and with the arrival of Edy Reja he also regained title in the national team, waiting for Italy to give him a second chance (after all he is only 23 years old).
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