Altin Haxhi: Agile left-back of Albania
Altin Haxhi (1975) is one of the best left-backs to have played for the Albanian team. He started his professional career with KS Luftetari, the biggest club in the southern city of Gjirokastra.
Haxhi grew up as a footballer in the ranks of his hometown team KS Luftetari, then carrying the old name Shqiponja. He joined the youth squad of Shqiponja in 1993, aged 18. A year later, the left-back debuted professionally with the team in the lower championship tiers of Albanian football. From then on, he emerged as a crucial left-foot player and fullback. In two seasons with his local team, Haxhi featured in 45 games and scored strikingly ten goals.
After excelling in his natural role as a potent left-back, in 1996, Altin Haxhi moved to Patras in Greece. There, he would defend the colors of Panachaiki F.C., a modest but historic Greek club, for the next two years. Panachaiki had barely escaped the relegation zone of the Alpha Ethniki (the top-tier league in Greece) a year ago by only two points.
In his first season with Panachaiki, Altin Haxhi excelled. Not only did he help in defending, but he also initiated dangerous incursions from the left.
The Greek Experience
The performance of Haxhi was decisive in the 1996-1997 season when Panachaiki again secured survival into the Greek Super League by finishing 15th for the second consecutive year (the last spot to avoid relegation). However, next season, Altin Haxhi could not save Panachaiki again. His side finished 16th in the league, missing the survival spot by only one point.
After relegation in Greece, Haxhi sought a different club. He found his future team in Bulgaria. His two seasons in Patras were some of the best of his career; he appeared in 41 games for Panachaiki and scored six goals.
After two years with Bulgarian club Litex Lovech, Haxhi would return to the Greek top-flight division. Iraklis Thessaloniki bought the player from Bulgaria for a fee of $ 165,000. For the next three seasons (2000-2003), the left-back represented the second-biggest club of Thessaloniki. Iraklis concluded each league season in the top seven spots. In all, Haxhi appeared in 65 matches for Iraklis.
During the 2004-2005 season, Haxhi defended the interests of Apollon Kalamarias (now called Apollon Pontus F.C.). After playing 24 matches and scoring four goals, his side finished twelve in the league. Then, after another experience outside Greece in Cyprus, Haxhi enrolled in the ranks of the Cretan club Ergotelis F.C. With the newly promoted side, Haxhi played in 23 matches in his first season and scored three goals. In the upcoming season, the lefty played only nine games. His contribution, however, was enough in both seasons to help the Cretans avoid relegation.
Overall, Haxhi featured in 171 games in the Greek Super League 1, scoring nine times and assisting four times. His last club was the Greek club of Apollon Kalamarias (2010-2012).
The Bulgarian & Cypriote Adventures
Haxhi played for the first time in the Bulgarian championship with the famous club Litex Lovech (1998-2000). For two seasons, he made some outstanding games. In his first season (1998-1999), the left-back won the championship title of Bulgaria (top-flight division). That season, Haxhi played in 24 league matches and scored six decisive goals (the defender with the most goals on his team). He celebrated that trophy with Alban Bushi, his other Albanian team-mate who performed very well that season.
In his next and final season with Litex, his side finished fifth in the league, with Haxhi still offering consistent contributions. Haxhi concluded the two seasons with Litex Lovech with 47 appearances and nine goals scored.
Altin Haxhi returned to Bulgaria in 2003 to play for one season for the giants of CSKA Sofia. He played 30 matches in the 2003-2004 season for CSKA, helping the team finish third in the league and secure a final in the Bulgarian Cup. In the Bulgarian Cup semi-final second-leg (21.04.2004), his side, with him on the pitch, crushed the neighboring rivals of Lokomotiv Sofia 4-0. That was his last game for CSKA as he missed the Cup Final (12.05.2004). CSKA would lose that cup to Litex Lovexh on penalties after a 2-2 draw on regular time. Many believe that with Haxhi on the pitch, the final would have been different.
Apart from Greek and Bulgarian experiences, of note, are also Haxhi’s adventures in Cyprus. The Albanians played for Anorthosis Famagusta (2005-2006) and APOEL Nicosia (2008-2010). In the Cypriote top-flight division, he played 50 matches and scored one goal. Some highlights include lifting the trophy of the Cypriote league champion in the 2008-2009 season with APOEL Nicosia and participating in the 2010 UEFA Champions League group stage.
National Team Stats & Highlights
On 30 November 1995, Haxhi debuted for Albania in the 2-0 friendly home win against Bosnia Herzegovina. He was, at the time, 21. His left foot quickly became valuable enough to make him a solid starter for the red and black team. He played 67 games for his nation, scoring three goals.
Apart from the left-back position, Haxhi could easily cover other roles, such as left midfielder or left winger. He could even step into the right-back and center-back positions. Fans remember Haxhi for his rigid positional and training discipline and athletic agility. The IFFHS has selected Altin Haxhi among the best 11 Albanian football players.
* Altin Haxhi features in our all-time top 11 Albanian football players *