Brisbane Roar youngster Rahmat Akbari says matching wits with top quality players such as Western United’s Alessandro Diamanti is the next challenge in his rapidly advancing career.
The 20-year-old has been a regular in the Roar’s starting XI this A-League season and his form was rewarded earlier this week with the club announcing he’d signed a contract extension.
His short-term future secure, Akbari is now focusing on continuing to make his mark in the A-League, starting with Sunday’s face-off against a United team led by their influential Italian.
The reigning Johnny Warren Medallist missed Wednesday’s loss to Sydney FC but is expected to be back in Mark Rudan’s line-up when the Roar travel to AAMI Park on Sunday.
“I always want to challenge myself. Play against the better players of the league such as a Diamanti,” Akbari told AAP.
“I want to show what I can do against them.
“I don’t want to be just an ordinary young player. I want to be a big player.”
Roar coach Warren Moon praised Akbari’s efforts so far this season after the pair had sat down before the start of the campaign to have a frank discussion about the youngster’s ambition.
Having made just 20 appearances, most of them as a substitute over the past three seasons, the Afghan-born midfielder has played in all 10 of Brisbane’s games this season, starting in nine.
“Basically I put the ball in his court about what he wanted to achieve and where he wanted to go,” Moon said.
“This is a reward, which is all him, he’s put the work in and he’s put the performances in and I just couldn’t be happier for him.”
Akbari has already outlined his intention to push for Australia’s Olympic squad later this year and his long-term ambitions extend further than that as well.
“Right now I’m focusing on Brisbane Roar this season and next season but it’s in the plan to go to Europe.”
KEY MATCH STATS
* This will be Western United’s fourth match at AAMI Park and they are yet to win at the Melbourne venue.
* Former Brisbane striker Besart Berisha has been involved in five of Western United past seven goals, scoring four and setting up another.
* Brisbane have conceded the opening goal in just three of their 10 matches this season but have lost every game in which their opponent scores first.