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Hair Zeqiri – KS Flamurtari Vlore & Albania U-21’s

March 8, 2011

As I’ve written in my About page, I have a borderline obsession with discovering obscure information and new talent. Things don’t get much more obscure than 22 year olds playing in the Albanian league who have yet to play for their national team.

Hair Zeqiri is an Albanian U-21 international and midfielder for KS Flamurtari Vlore, a club with only one domestic title and a ground that holds only 9,500 people. Opinion seems to vary from website to website on how to describe him. The most accurate I’ve been able to find is ‘versatile offensive midfielder’. Although even this doesn’t really do him justice. Admittedly, judging a player in the context of a youtube video from the Albanian league is not always going to give you the full picture. But from what I’ve seen Zeqiri is an accomplished technician, with vision not only in attack, but also defensively. He’s adept at executing defence splitting passes, but his positional awareness enables him to break up opposition attacks and initiate counter attacks or simply keep possession.

At 6ft 3in he provides a physical presence and athleticism to the midfield and an asset at set pieces in both boxes. Surprisingly, his goalscoring and assist records are disappointing for a player of his quality, but the ability of his teammates should probably be taken into account. It’s also something of a mystery why he hasn’t yet been capped by Albania at senior level considering his talents have caught the attention outside of his domestic league.

Albania are currently ranked 66th in the world and share a Euro 2012 qualifying group with France, Bosnia, Romania, Belarus & Luxembourg and finished the WC 2010 qualifying campaign with just one win from 10 games. Their highest profile player is Galatasaray midfielder Lorik Cana, who captained Sunderland for much of last season. Elsewhere in the squad is Altin Lala of Hannover, Ledian Memushaj of Chievo, Hamdi Salihi of Rapid Vienna and Erjon Bogdani of Cesena who play at a reasonable level and rival Zeqiri for a midfield or attacking berth. It may be that experience is what is required, while Zeqiri earns his stripes as a lynchpin in the U-21 team.

KS Flamurtari Vlore currently sit at the top of the Albanian league by 7 points with a +30 goal difference. It’s reasonable to hazard that they may play a part in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League next season and give Zeqiri a bigger stage to display his qualities. His only experience of European football thus far has been a 2 legged qualifier in last seasons Europa league against Motherwell. Despite winning the home leg 1-0, Flamurtari suffered an 8-1 drubbing at Fir Park. With this being Zeqiris final season as an U-21 player, and his club in pole position for only their second league title, next term could be a crucial one for the young midfielders future. A promotion to the senior National team, Champions League football or a move to a foreign league must surely be in the offing. Then we might see just how good he can be.

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