Born in Kosovo in 1986, Abdi considers himself fully Swiss having made the move to Zurich with his family at just two years old. He started playing football some five years later, and the 5ft 11in midfielder says he has his dad to thank for the strides taken during his early development.
“My father was always with me everywhere, and he was the one who pushed me. He was the main factor in me getting where I am today. Whenever I played bad he was always telling me what I should do better, or if I played good he told me what I did well. He helped me a lot," said Abdi, who often played as a striker early on.
“He always loved football and he still does even now. Back then he worked a lot, but he still took time to come and see me play, no matter where it was. He still comes to watch games now but the thing is, every time he comes we lose, so I told him not to bother anymore!”
Abdi clearly impressed during those early days, earning a place within the youth ranks at 12-times Swiss Super League champions FC Zurich. The former Udinese man credits that step-up from boys' football to a mixture of good fortune and great hunger.
“I think I always had talent, but so many players have talent. Not everyone can make it as a professional football player. There are so many very good players at the age of between 10 and 16 who have big talent, but they don't make it,” he remarked.
“You need a lot of luck, you need a coach that likes you, and fortunately I had both of these things when I was young. I think I also had a lot of desire. All the parents of the other kids used to ask my parents what they gave me to eat because I always had much more power!”
Eleven years since his professional debut with Zurich, Abdi has plied a colourful trade in Switzerland, France, Italy and now England, a European journey which the attack-minded midfielder says has made him a better player.
“I always wanted to play abroad, that's just how it is when you play in Switzerland. Thankfully I have experienced many leagues in many countries, and now I'll get to experience the Premier League as well,” he said.
“It's certainly helped me as a player. I can say for sure that I'm a better player now than I was even two or three years ago, before coming to England. Experience means a lot in football and I'm a better player now because of that.
“It's also positive for my lifestyle. I've now been away from Switzerland for five-and-a-half years. Every start is difficult, it was very difficult for me when I first went to France, I couldn't speak the language, but you learn a lot. You learn how to survive alone, and that's why when I came to England it was much easier for me.
“First of all I could speak the language, and also the mentality here is great. All the players they welcome you, so it was much easier for me. From the beginning I felt welcome.”