Former Blackburn Rovers midfielder Vince Grella has revealed Melbourne Heart FC Head Coach John Aloisi strongly influenced his decision to return to Australia as he seeks to put himself "back on the football map".
Grella touched down in Australia on Saturday after a long-haul flight from Italy and briefly met his new teammates at the La Trobe University Sports Fields before the first team flew to Perth in the afternoon.
But it wasn't the desire to follow in the footsteps of marquee signings, such as Alessandro Del Piero, who Grella played against on regular occasion in Serie A, that shaped his move to Melbourne.
“The two major factors were; one moving back to my home town and two; an opportunity to get myself back on the football map," Grella said yesterday.
“Together with John Aloisi I hope to get back to playing football, the sport that I love and I’ve missed in the past couple of years.
“For me the number one thing was the conversations I have had with John Aloisi over the past two months. I would have to say he was persistent in getting me over.
"100 per cent. He was the one that drove me to come back to play at Melbourne Heart."
However, while persistence was the key to luring Grella home, Aloisi will need to balance enthusiasm with patience with his new recruit.
“I hope to be fit by the end of November," Grella said.
"It’s hard to put a day or a week on when I will be back to full fitness. My general fitness is good now, I just need to get back into the football work and hopefully with the medical team and with the coaching staff we can organise a good program.”
“I have a lot of enthusiasm but I’m going to have to put as much patience together with the enthusiasm to get it right. We don’t want to come back in too early and cause any problems.”
Grella reunited with old friends at Heart yesterday, catching up with former teammate Hayden Foxe, along with Simon Colosimo and Richard Garcia.
“I'm looking forward to the challenge and I’ve already seen that there’s a good working environment here," Grella said.
“I hope to bring my experience to the club, I hope to, number one, perform and help the team be successful.”
“They are a great football club... and I want to help them improve and help them make that better and stronger.”
While Grella admitted injuries had troubled him in recent seasons, he was keen to reignite his "love and the passion of football".
"I’ve been lucky to have the best job in the world. My dream as a young kid was to play football professionally and I’ve been lucky to do that for 15 years," Grella said.
“I just want to get back to enjoying my football and this is the right spot for me."