The Wellington Phoenix have signalled their intent for the coming A-League season with the signing of Italian defender Marco Rossi.
The 28-year-old former Perugia centre-back will fill the void left by the retirement of All White Ben Sigmund.
"His experience will be enormously valuable to us given Marco has played Serie A and Serie B and represented Italy at under-17, under-19, under-20 and under-21 level," said Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick at the player's unveiling in the capital on Tuesday morning.
"This is the type of experience we wanted. He'll be a terrific partner in the middle of defence with Andrew Durante.
"Having a really good structure in the back line is crucial. Dura has been carrying that responsibility himself for a while now without Ben Sigmund there. Marco Rossi is going to be a great assistant to Dura in organising the back line."
Rossi's two-year deal - with a further one-year option - was three months in the making and Merrick admitted the player was initially out of the club's price range.
"But we've managed to come to a compromise and it's really terrific to get the signing over the line."
Rossi's arrival follows the high-profile signings of forwards Gui Finkler and Kosta Barbarouses, and Merrick said they were a reflection of the club's ambitions.
"We are certainly aiming for the playoffs but we want to be in the top four and we're very serious about it, hence the quality of our signings."
The Italian admitted his knowledge of the A-League was limited, but speaking to former Socceroo Vince Grella, who suggested the Phoenix look at Rossi, and Australia goalkeeper Mark Birighitti, who he played with at Varese last year, had helped him make a decision.
"I had to think a lot about it because it is a big change in lifestyle," Rossi said through an interpreter.
"Once I made the decision there was nothing to stop me and now I'm going to try and learn English as quickly as possible so I can help the team achieve what we want to achieve."
Merrick is still searching for another defender, a defensive midfielder and a back-up striker following the departures of Manny Muscat, Albert Riera and Blake Powell.
"But we're going to take our time and get the right players for the club. We want to have a real tilt (at the title) this year."