SOCCEROO veteran Vince Grella never fancied returning to play in the A-League.
He didn't like the stories he had heard about former internationals who returned home and copped stick from fans and the media. And while he had been off the Socceroo scene for some time he felt his chances of a recall would be higher if he stayed in Europe.
But footage of the Melbourne derby 10 days ago, when Heart beat Victory 2-1 in front of 42,000 fans, played a small but important role in changing his mind, Melbourne Heart officials said yesterday as they announced that the club had done a one-year deal with Vella.
''That had some impact I think. The big crowd, the atmosphere, the fact that we won and the occasion was impressive. He also had a good relationship with our coach, John Aloisi, who played with him in the Socceroos for a long time,'' Heart CEO Scott Munn said yesterday.
The executive added that major factor for Heart in its pursuit of Grella was his professionalism and experience.
''We all know Vince is a great player, but he has done it all in the game and we think that as well as adding plenty to us on the field he can help with the development of our youngsters,'' Munn explained.
Grella, who has played 46 times for Australia, has spent the bulk of his career in Italy, where he went after cutting his teeth in the old NSL with Carlton as a teenager.
He played at Empoli, Parma and Torino before moving to the English Premier League with Blackburn Rovers. But a series of debilitating injuries cruelled his time in Lancashire and he was rarely able to show what he could do in the world's most popular league.
Grella trained with Heart during the off-season but, with his wife coming from Italy and his children all Italian born it was thought most likely that he would try to find a new club there or perhaps in the Middle East, where his great friend Mark Bresciano has moved.
His arrival will inevitably lead to a reshuffle in the Heart midfield, as he is best employed as the screening midfielder, a role he occupied with aplomb for the national team for years.