Fiorentina picked up a player over the summer who could turn out to be one of the best to emerge out of Australia in a number of years in Josh Brillante.
The 21-year-old from Bundaberg, Queensland, has shown while playing for former club Newcastle Jets and the Australian underage sides that he is already a superb footballer and has the potential to become considerably better.
His pre-season form in a handful of friendly matches for Fiorentina indicates Brillante is already physically and mentally prepared for life in Serie A.
Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou selected the versatile player for his original 30-man squad for Brazil 2014 but cut him when he named his final 23-man squad. He has commented since, however, that he regrets leaving Brillante out.
The manager told FFA TV, as reported on the official Socceroos website, that he made a mistake in not including the youngster in the squad.
"Josh was extremely unlucky to miss the World Cup squad. That was probably the toughest decision I had to make. Probably in retrospect I might have even erred in not taking him."
Though he has only one cap at full international level thus far, Brillante is clearly in Postecoglou's plans. He was named in the first post-World Cup Australia squad to take on Belgium and Saudi Arabia in friendlies, as the side begins its preparation for the 2015 Asian Cup on home soil.
It would be a huge surprise if Brillante was not involved in the Asian Cup, and it may even be the tournament where he begins to make a name for himself at the international level.
He has already impressed in junior Socceroos teams. His performances at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey in 2013 were outstanding, and he even scored one of the goals of the tournament with a long-range screamer against El Salvador.
The powerful defensive midfielder, who is also comfortable at right-back, has already forged a reputation as a top quality player among fans of Australia's A-League, despite his tender years.
A product of the prestigious Queensland Academy of Sport Football Program, Brillante made his A-League debut in 2010 for the now-defunct Gold Coast United.
When Gold Coast's licence was not renewed by Football Federation Australia, the teenager moved to the Jets, where he went on to establish himself as a first-team regular, making 46 appearances over two seasons.
Brillante is the type of rugged central midfielder that teams are built around. He is not only a tenacious and physically intimidating defender but skilled on the ball as well.
His pace and stamina ensure he can slot in at right-back with ease as well, which probably explains Postecoglou's regret in not selecting him in his World Cup squad.
Most notable of all is his strong character and leadership qualities, especially for one so young.
He also possesses a ferocious shot from distance. Although he never managed a goal in the A-League, he has already scored for his Italian club in a friendly against Peruvian club Universitario.
This came after the Australian had wowed local commentators with a standout display in midfield against Estudiantes de la Plata and impressed new coach Vincenzo Montella with his physical preparedness, per Goal.com.
Early signs indicate Brillante will feature regularly for Fiorentina in his first season in Italian football and may even command a first-team place.
Such a feat would be a huge achievement for the youth from Queensland, but one gets the feeling it will merely be the first step to bigger and better things.
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