The news Brisbane Roar had been dreading was confirmed on Wednesday when the Melbourne Victory announced it had signed star striker Besart Berisha on a lucrative two-season deal.
Speculation had been rife that the off-contract Albanian international was sounding out other A-League clubs but Roar coach Mike Mulvey had hoped Berisha would stay after inspiring their stunning 2011-12 championship win.
The tug of war over the marksman began in October when rival clubs were officially allowed to ask the Roar for permission to speak with Berisha as he entered the final six months of his current two-year Brisbane deal.
Several clubs courted Berisha including Sydney FC, Newcastle and even Graham Arnold’s Japanese outfit Vegalta Sendai.
However, the Victory emerged triumphant in a remarkable recruiting coup for coach Kevin Muscat.
“Besart has been performing at the highest level week-in, week-out for Brisbane and has caused plenty of headaches for opposition defenders and coaches, including myself,” Muscat said.
“He’s a proven goalscorer and a player that we can’t wait to welcome to Melbourne Victory.
“It’s certainly well documented how competitive Besart is, and that is something every A-League fan surely admires about him.”
Roar fans quickly warmed to Berisha when he scored 21 goals in his debut 2011-12 season and sealed back-to-back championships for the club with his controversial last gasp grand final goal against Perth Glory.
But it remains to be seen how the Roar faithful treat the Brisbane crowd favourite after becoming the Victory’s marquee signing.
Berisha – who has scored 41 goals in 65 games for Brisbane – will miss Friday night’s Suncorp Stadium clash with Wellington after being sent off last round against Perth.
Roar coach Mulvey said Brisbane had tried hard to retain their star striker.
“Despite the club’s best efforts to keep the Albanian international in Brisbane, Berisha will not re-sign with Brisbane Roar beyond his current contract,” he said.
“With the salary cap we have in this league, the ins and outs of players are a fact of life.
“Brisbane Roar has been aware that this was a possibility and we are committed to bringing in a quality striker for the next A-League season.”
Berisha will link with the Victory after the 2013-14 season.