Chatting to Melbourne-born Haris Stamboulidis is like interviewing a CEO or an academic.

He’s super-smart, considered and focused.

When you’ve just graduated from New York’s respected Columbia University with an economics degree and you have been recognised as a Dean’s List student, little wonder.

But more than that, the midfielder can speak French and Greek.

He even has a perfect pronunciation and grasp of Spanish after six months in Uruguay as a child in 2005/06 - where he trained at the Diego Forlan Academy.

Which is timely given he’s just signed for a Spanish club, Segunda Division out Extremadura UD.

Stamboulidis joined last week from Aris Thessaloniki in the Greek Super League.

Stamboulidis during his season last year with Aris Thessaloniki

And when he does finally finish his football career, the Melburnian ponders how he may partner with fellow Columbia University alumni and his industry contacts in New York to explore startup ideas in the fin-tech sector.

It’s hard to believe he’s just 23 years old.

Meet the engaging, talented and very likable Haris Stamboulidis, a player with an eminently bright future, wherever it takes him.

Though his has been an unorthodox journey to one of Europe's most technical leagues.

Starting in Melbourne, with the Victorian junior rep and state teams, progressing to NPL outfit Heidelberg United, then Melbourne City’s youth team.

He then went overseas.

However, not to Europe: his move was to college football at the highly respected Columbia University in New York.

There he spent three years studying while playing with Columbia University’s Lions in the NCAA.

Stamboulidis played 40 matches, including during their title season, their first in 27 years.

Another Aussie and friend of Stamboulidis, Spiros Stamoulis, also played for Columbia University in 2018.

Stamboulidis’ one year at Aris last season came after he left New York in 2018.

And now this unique talent has progressed to Spain’s highly rated Segunda Division at Extremadura (located in western Spain close to the border of Portugal comprising the provinces of Cáceres and Badajoz).

All this while balancing a taxing study schedule.

Training last week with Extremadura

So, how does he do it?

“I think setting out clear objectives, sacrifice and time management. Those are three keys in balancing all your commitments and duties.

“It’s difficult but it all comes to how much you want it and how much you’re willing to give up to achieve your goals,” he tells FTBL from Almendralejo as his new team prepared for their second game of the season against Fuenlabrada.