Barbiero's unusual rise

Fabian Barbiero had an unconventional journey to professional football, making his ascent to the top all the more interesting.

Hard work, persistence and sacrifice are the cornerstones for the makings of a successful professional footballer and Adelaide United midfielder Fabian Barbiero is a shining example.

Unlike the vast majority of modern footballers Barbiero was not the product of a youth system.

The 27-year-old never went through any famed development programs such as the Australian Institute Sport's football school in Canberra nor was he selected for local representative squads - he had to work his way up.

Although Barbiero did represent the SA state team at a young age nothing ever eventuated for him as he went about completing his high school studies while playing football in Adelaide's southern suburbs for the South Adelaide Panthers.

With his aspirations of playing at the highest level in limbo Barbiero was left with no choice but to seek a different career pathway upon graduating high school.

"I finished school and worked with my uncle in an office because I didn't know what I wanted to do," Barbiero recalled.

"I thought about doing a trade but I wanted to concentrate on soccer and play at a high level."

Barbiero's burning desire to succeed as a footballer drove him to South Australian Super League club MetroStars in 2006.

After two successful seasons with the North Eastern SA side including being named best and fairest in his first year, Barbiero had caught the attention of Adelaide United who invited the attacking midfielder to train with the senior team.

At 23 (an age considered too old in the modern football world of today) Barbiero was concerned he had missed his opportunity to become a professional footballer.

"Obviously I was getting older and I think I was 23 when (MetroStars coach) Mike Barnett said there was a good chance of me getting a gig at Adelaide United," Barbiero said.

"He said 'you never know what could happen, just keep training hard' and then eventually I got the opportunity with United to come out and train.

"I was just a train on player and I didn't expect much because I thought being at the age that I was I had missed the boat ... and that they'd go for the younger kids."

But with a 'nothing to lose' attitude Barbiero earned himself a six-month contract with the Reds at the beginning of the 2007-08 Hyundai A-League season.

"A lot of sacrifice including my job, which I could have probably done in the future so I could focus on football, and hard work paid off in the end," he said.

After impressing in training, Barbiero finally made his debut in November 2007 as a substitute in the 1-1 draw with Perth Glory in front of his home crowd - a moment he described as 'extra special'.

Barbiero would go on to make only a further two appearances for the club that season including that fateful sending off on his full debut against the Newcastle Jets before he was named in the Reds' squad for the 2008 Asians Champions League.

Expecting to only play a bit role, then coach Aurelio Vidmar had other ideas, thrusting Barbiero immediately into action despite a lack of experience in the higher echelons of football.

But Barbiero responded, undaunted by the enormity of the competition and prospect of Adelaide United making history on their way to finishing runners-up.

He made six appearances including the final and a memorable display against Bunyodkor where he man marked former Brazilian superstar Rivaldo out of the game in an unfamiliar defensive midfield role and scored the second goal of the Reds' 3-0 demolition of the Uzbekistani side.

"I had to sort of pinch myself coming from the local leagues to play in such a big, high-class tournament," Barbiero beamed.

"There was a little bit of pressure and I was definitely nervous but it was an amazing experience to be a part of."

Following an impressive AFC Champions League campaign Barbiero's contract was extended by a year as he developed into an integral member of the Adelaide United squad.

His rapid progression saw 2009 become a breakout year.

Barbiero was instrumental in helping Adelaide reach the 2009 Hyundai A-League Grand Final with no better moment then his memorable 20-yard top corner 'stick of dynamite' winning goal against the Brisbane Roar in the preliminary final typifying his efforts.

His hard work did not go unrewarded as he made his senior international debut for the Socceroos only a month later in March before being offered a trial with German second division side SpVgg Greuther Fürth, in a move that was unfortunate not to pay off, given the club was looking for a defensive minded midfielder.

Although suffering a recurring ankle injury that wreaked havoc during the 2009-10 season and later required surgery curtailing his 2010-11 season, Barbiero ranks eighth on Adelaide United's all-time record appearance list with 84 appearances and is currently the team's third-longest serving player behind captain Eugene Galekovic and vice captain Cassio.

An achievement at only 27 years of age Barbiero puts down to his intense focus and work ethic.

"I just work hard and I don't worry too much about what goes on behind the scenes and what not ... I've always been like that," Barbiero declared.

"I just put my head down and focus on what I need to do as a player to propel myself going forward and I'm very focused on doing the right things on and off the park.

"I've grown as a player and I think having been out for so long recently (with injury) I've appreciated and learnt a lot more of the game.

"I find I have a bit more experience now and look at the game a bit different.

"I had to sort do it the hard way if you say that, but with football regardless if you're in a system or come through grass root levels you're always learning, and I don't think you ever stop learning even after football."

With clubs and players ever-changing and switching so often Barbiero is one of a very select few to have remained at one club during his Hyundai A-League career, let alone play for his hometown side.

Barbiero acknowledged his special circumstance and admitted he would value the chance to become a one-club player in his home state, but defended the shifting dynamics of world football given how unstable the career of a professional footballer is, suggesting he could be tempted to move clubs if a better opportunity arose.

"I'd love to be a one club player and continue my career here ... there is nothing else better to play for your state ... but football is a funny thing and you just don't know," Barbiero said.

"What people don't realise is that we are in this career for a short amount of time, where as if you're in a normal job you can work until you're 65 and don't have to retire.

"Loyalty is obviously important to people but money is a big factor because you've got to do what you've got to do to survive given that once your football career is finished you have to look for another job unless you are a multi-millionaire like the players overseas.

"Obviously I'm getting a bit older, but there are still a lot of players making it over to Asia and that would be a great highlight and goal of mine to achieve."

Having gone from a part-time soccer player who trained twice a week, worked in an office and once considered becoming a tradie, to a Socceroo-capped Hyundai A-League superstar, Barbiero's grass roots journey showing what due diligence and hard work can reward, is inspiring for any young footballer toying with the idea of becoming Australia's next big thing.