Carl Valeri hasn’t played domestic football in this country since he was whisked away to Italy as a teenager. His homecoming begins Friday night.
The A-League arrives back on the sporting stage on Friday night with one of the competition’s best rivalries – and Carl Valeri couldn’t be more excited.
Valeri will make his A-League debut for Melbourne Victory against Western Sydney Wanderers, a pairing to whet the appetite of soccer-starved fans.
The five months between Wanderers’ grand final loss to Brisbane and season-opening clash with Victory is short in Australian sporting terms.
But in football, five months is an eternity; one of the longest off-seasons in the world.
Either way, the moment has arrived for the 30-year-old.
“I wanted to be a part of this and every day it makes me happy because I know it was the right decision coming home,” Valeri said.
Valeri, signed by European giants Inter Milan as a teenager, has spent his entire professional career in Italy.
A part of two lower-tier title-winning squads with Grosseto and Sassuolo, Valeri said he sees comparisons between Victory’s squad leading into the season and those champion teams.
“There was always a fantastic group of players, and fantastic club support behind them,” he said.
“That’s the key thing – we have everything here.”
“We’ve spoken about it, we’ve dreamed about it and now we’re got to go out there and do it.”
Whether Victory’s title push – bookmakers have Kevin Muscat’s men behind only Melbourne City in favouritism – starts with a win on Friday night is very unclear.
One school of thought says the Wanderers, missing Nikolai Topor-Stanley (Socceroos duty) and Tomi Juric (injury), might come down from the highs of reaching the Asian Champions League (ACL) final.
The other says those high-level matches have Wanderers battle-hardened and ready to win at Etihad Stadium.
Valeri says they’re not leaving their preparations to chance.
“After watching them a few times I don’t think they’ll let their guard slip,” he said.
“They grinded out a great result over good opposition (in the ACL) and we’ll be supporting them in the final for sure but on Friday it’s business and we’re going to not hold back.”