Naim Kryeziu: The Iconic Albanian Calciatore
Naim Kryeziu is, no doubt, the best Albanian right winger in history. Kryeziu belongs to the same generation of talented Albanian footballers as Riza Lushta. He played for notable clubs such as SK Tirana (now current KF Tirana; on and off during 1934-1939), A.S. Roma (1939-1947), and S.S.C. Napoli (1947-1953).
Naim Kryeziu was born in the charming town of Gjakova in Kosova only a few months before the end of WWI. At a young age, he left his hometown to escape the Yugoslavian conquest of Kosova. He came to Tirana to live with his brother, an Albanian Army sergeant.
On 22 April 1934, Naim Kryeziu debuted with seniors at only 15. He played for Bashkimi Elbasanas (KF Elbasani) in the 0-5 league loss to Tirana. Immediately, he stood out as an impeccable talent, securing a transfer to the team he lost to at debut. Due to a law of 1936 prohibiting students from playing in the domestic league, the winger missed participation in two consecutive seasons (1936, 1937). Yet, he was active in friendly and international games.
With Tirana, Kryeziu won a historic match against Gruppo Sportivo Imolese Francesco Zardi (now Imolese Calcio 1919), the first Italian club to play in Albania. In January 1937, Tirana defeated the Italians 5-1, with Kryeziu scoring the third goal. The capital team repeated the success against the same opponent about three months later, with a 2-0 score.
On 26 April 1938, Kryeziu put on another stunning performance with Tirana against another Italian team, S.S.C. Bari. In the Shallvare field of Tirana, the home team lost to the Italians 0-2. However, an attending agent from A.S. Roma noticed Kryeziu’s outstanding abilities.
Soon after, the talent from Gjakova was the football star of the Albanian Championship of 1939 with Tirana. On 30 September 1939, Tirana won the final match against KF Vllaznia 6-5. Kryeziu scored two goals in that final match, concluding a stunning season in the best way possible. This match was also his last competitive match in Albania. With seven total goals, Naim Kryeziu was the top goalscorer for 1939.
A Legend Of AS Roma
In late 1939, Kryeziu signed for the Italian giants of A.S. Roma. He debuted for the Giallorossi on 10 March 1940, in the 4-2 home win against S.S.C. Bari. That was a memorable game against a Barese squad where Riza Lushta (compatriot and former teammate at Tirana) played. Lushta even scored one goal for Bari.
A career highlight for Kryeziu came in the 1941-1942 Serie A season. At the end of that edition, the Roman club won its first-ever league title. Kryeziu played a meaningful role in this achievement. He scored some decisive goals; the winning goal in Roma – Bologna 2-1; the opening goal in the 2-0 home victory against Juventus; and the two goals in Ambrosiana-Inter – Roma 0-2. That season, Naim Kryeziu played 23 games out of 30 and scored six goals. He also provided multiple decisive assists for his partner in attack, Amadeo Amadei.
On 14 June 1942, the Romans finalized their splendid season with a 2-0 vital home win against Modena. Kryeziu lifted the breakthrough trophy for A.S. Roma at Campo Testaccio. Thus, he became the first Albanian to win Serie A and a league trophy in the top football leagues of Europe.
Kryeziu remained loyal to I Giallorossi until 1947. He played for Roma in 8 Serie A seasons, registering 135 games and 33 goals. In 1947, he moved to S.S.C. Napoli for a considerable fee of 18,000,000 Italian liras. The achievement of the 1941-1942 season of the Albanian and his teammates repeated only 41 years later when, in 1983, Roma won the scudetto title for a second time.
An Experienced “Calciatore”
During 1947-1953, Kryeziu played for the southern club of S.S.C. Napoli. He was decisive for the Campanian side, helping them win the Italian second-division championship in 1949-1950 and secure promotion to the Serie A.
Torre del Greco in Serie D was the last club of Kryeziu. He represented them during 1953-1954 at 35 years of age. In total, Kryeziu registered 215 games and 50 goals in Serie A. In Serie B, he accumulated 75 appearances and 15 goals. Of note are also 13 Italian Cup appearances and six goals in such a competition.
During 1962-1965, Kryeziu was A.S. Roma’s assistant manager (even head coach for at least one match in 1965; the first Albanian with such a managerial role in Italy). On November 1, 1964, Roma won its first Italian Cup.
National Team Stats & Highlights
Naim Kryeziu was part of the first match of the Albanian national selection (5 March 1936). However, World War II and the rise of communism in Albania caused Kryeziu to part ways with Albania. In 1946, he refused an invitation to replay for Albania, now a country under an oppressive regime.
In 2002, an illustration depicting Naim Kryeziu appeared in a stamp issue of the Albanian Post, part of the edition Famous Albanian Players (Futbollistë Shqiptarë të Famshëm). The other three players of this edition included portrayals of Loro Boriçi, Ymer Pampuri, and Riza Lushta.
Kryeziu was one of the best football players of 1927-1945 for A.S. Roma (along with Argentinians Arturo Chini Ludueña and Enrique Guaita). The Albanian winger had a stunning pace and speed. He was also very dangerous in one-on-one situations and relentless on the far right. His speed earned him the nickname Freccia di Tirana (Train from Tirana).
* Naim Kryeziu features in our all-time top 11 Albanian football players *