From Liverpool transfer target to Dingwall debut: Hearts new boy Donis Avdijaj reflects on ‘crazy’ three years

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DONIS AVDIJAJ was a teenage revelation, a prolific goalscorer of such potency at youth level that Schalke placed a €41 million price-tag on his head to ward off interest from Liverpool.

Regularly mentioned in the same breath as Timo Werner, Julian Brandt and Leroy Sane as they shone together for Germany’s youth sides, the diminutive attacker was seemingly destined for the upper echelons of the game.

However, Wednesday evening will see Avdijaj will make his debut in Dingwall for a Hearts side desperately seeking to climb off the foot of the Scottish Premiership; his sixth club in three years.

(Pic: Hearts TV)

While there is no shame in playing a handful of games for Schalke and leading the line for the likes of Sturm Graz, Willem II and Trabzonspor, it is fair to suggest Avdijaj’s potential is yet to be realised.

Nevertheless, he is circumspect and grateful for what he sees as an invaluable learning curve – and determined to kick-start his career in Gorgie.

“Some people might question me because I’ve now had six teams in three years,” acknowledged Avdijaj. “What I would say is it has been a crazy experience and I have learned a lot.

“In most of the teams I had a good time. I’ve played in five countries and I can speak five languages. I’ve had different foods, met different people, different cultures, different stadiums, different fans.

“For 23 years old, that is not a bad experience.

“I’ve seen lots of different types of football and I’ve scored in every country I’ve played in. This mix can help me in my next games at Hearts. I’m looking forward to showing myself and I hope I can find my best form as fast as I can.”

Having only signed a six-month contract, Hearts may just prove to be another fleeting waypoint in a varied career. Conversely, Avdijaj is not averse to putting down roots.

He smiled: “I hope to settle for a longer period at Hearts but first we have one mission – after we take this mission successfully we can talk.”

As well as possessing outrageous natural talent when the mood takes him, he confesses to be something of a Jekyll and Hyde character; charming off the pitch but with a devilish streak on it.

After a season characterised by meek surrenders, one suspects that will be music to the ears of most Jambos.

“Away from the football field I am the guy you – a little bit nice to everyone, I’m a little bit shy,” he continued. “But on the field you will see a change in me, fast.

“I’m a very aggressive player, a very technical player and a very emotional player.

“It’s a mix that the fans will like. In home games I like to lift the fans – I will give them emotion and heart.”

International football is also on his mind.

Avdijaj, L, in action for Sturm Graz (Pic: Steindy)

Avdijaj, who was a regular for Germany’s under-16, 17 and 19 squads, was courted by both Albania and Kosovo before finally committing his future to the latter in 2017.

He notched two goals in six caps, doing his parents Florije and Demo proud in the process. However, as he stagnated in Turkey with Trabzonspor, so he was overlooked by national coach Bernard Challandes. He has not played for Kosovo since November 2018.

Nevertheless, March’s Euro 2020 playoff with North Macedonia looms large as the youngest nation in Uefa seeks to make history.

“I want to go back to the national team,” he continued. “But first it’s important to play for my club.

“I chose to represent Kosovo in the same way I made this decision now [to come to Hearts]. I want to be somewhere where they know I am good and I have the people behind me. Kosovo is like that.

“It’s the home country of my parents, I speak the language perfectly and I listen to the music and eat its food. It was easy for me to chose my national team – and I think we have a big chance to go to the Euros.

“The quality of the team is very big and I hope the country can make history.”

Hearts head coach Daniel Stendel, an admirer of Avdijaj from their respective spells in Germany, is likely to hand his new signing an immediate outing against Ross County.

Avdijaj added: “It was important to go somewhere where I felt I had a coach behind me; someone who knows what I can do and who knows me well. So now I am here.”

 
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