From NSW to old south Wales: Birighitti completes Swansea move
UPDATE: Mark Birighitti has completed his "dream" transfer to the English Premier League – but don’t expect the talented goalkeeper to have his head turned by his move to the big time.
As revealed on thewest.com.au on Friday, Perth-born Birighitti has signed a two-year deal with Swansea City with the option of an extra 12 months.
It is a fantastic step-up from the A-League, where the 25-year-old excelled with struggling Newcastle Jets last season.
But amid the excitement of hopefully testing himself against the likes of Sergio Aguero, Alexis Sanchez and new Manchester United superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Birighitti is steeling himself for the more immediate task of trying to dislodge current Swans No.1 Lukasz Fabianski.
"It's been a long wait dealing with a few offers, so to come to this stage signing for Swansea City it's a dream come true,” Birighitti told thewest.com.au.
“It's going to be a huge test but I always play my best when there's a challenge in front of me.
“As a young footballer growing up, you dream of playing for the Socceroos. But going to the Premier League, it's a huge honour.
“Fabianski is a great goalkeeper who's got a wealth of experience.
“He played with Arsenal and recently he was enormous for Poland in the Euros. It'll be great to go and work with him and pick his brain and work with one of the best in England.
“But, of course, it’ll be my job to put pressure on him and be better than him each day at training.
“The good thing about English football is there are so many games. Not only the Premier League, but there's the Capital One Cup and the FA Cup.
HOW THE WEST BROKE DETAILS OF BIRIGHITTI'S MOVE TO SWANSEA
“My main aim is to perform well day in, day out at training and prove to the coaches and everyone at the football club why I should be there ... so when I get the opportunity to play for the first team I take it with both hands.”
Birighitti, capped once by Australia in 2013, learnt his football at ECU Joondalup and Perth SC before moving into the A-League with Adelaide United and then onto the Jets.
It’s not all been plain sailing – he previously saw a potential move to Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen fall through at the 11th hour. And 18 months ago he went on loan to the Italian second division to resurrect his career.
But that move to unfashionable AS Varese could turn out to be the making of Birighitti.
Not only did he come back revitalised and hungry for more European football, he also linked up with the man who has played no small part in taking him to Swansea.
“During my time in Italy, the sporting director at the time was Gabriele Ambrosetti, who is now an assistant at Swansea. He's a great person, very well respected and me and him get along very, very well.
“I’m looking forward to linking up with him and the head coach Francesco Guidolin and the rest of the players.
GUIDOLIN AND ASSISTANT GABRIELE AMROSETTI DURING THE CLUB'S RECENT PRE-SEASON TOUR TO THE US
“The captain, Ashley Williams, he was great for Wales at the Euros and just seeing some of the Swansea games last year, you could see his presence. He's a genuine leader and a person everyone looks up to.”
Birighitti was recalled to the Socceroos squad in May this year after a two-year absence and sat on the bench for the games against England and Greece.
His move from New South Wales to old south Wales will only strengthen his national credentials.
“While I was with the Socceroos squad in England and back in Australia, I spoke to a few of the players who have played in England, like Mile (Jedinak), Fedders (Adam Federici) and Timmy Cahill, asking what to expect if I went.
“They gave me a lot of good advice and there's a lot of Australians over in the UK who I can always catch up with them.
“There are also my agents Frank Trimboli and (former Socceroo) Vince Grella.
“Since I was first introduced to them a year-and-a-half ago they've been absolutely fantastic.
“It can be frustrating at times because they don't really say too much, and the whole Swansea thing I've only known about it (going ahead) for 2-3 weeks now. But they're fantastic people who want the best for their players.”
Birighitti also praised the coaching team at the Jets who helped him achieve his dream – and the family who instilled in him an unbending work ethic, even if it meant climbing out of bed before dawn for practice as a 10-year-old.
“They are such a proud family. My dad (Carlo) has done so much for me,” he said.
“Growing up as a young kid, he was my first ever coach. He's put in the hard yards too, dragging me out of bed, taking me to training at six o’clock in the morning ... Some of the stuff was ridiculous, but I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him. He's such an inspiration, and my mum (Fran) and sister and brother-in-law.
“They make sure nothing gets in the way of me excelling in my football career.
"There’s also the team at the Jets who came in last year. Scotty Miller, the coach, Jean-Paul de Marigny, who is now the assistant coach at Melbourne Victory, and Jess Vanstratten, the Jets goalkeeping coach and the one that will always be there for me.
“I probably wouldn’t be in this position if it wasn't for him. He’s been enormous in my career in this past year. Coming back from Italy he has helped me grow as a player and person - he's given me so much belief. I just can't thank him enough.”