Milan-born Andrea Merenda is closing in on the start of a six match contract with the Central Coast Mariners - and hopefully a permanent relocation to Australia.
The 31 year old is a former Inter Milan junior and has played at the Serie C level over the past 10 years, most recently with Lecco.
Merenda plays as a defensive midfielder but is also known for his creativity going forward and will offer the Mariners plenty of experience in the short-term. As Andrea told tribalfootball.com, he hopes that it will be a longer term proposition.
tribalfootball.com: Andrea, you played at Inter Milan as a junior up to the age of 18. Who were some of your teammates in this time?
Andrea Merenda: Growing up, I played alongside the likes of Luca Toni, Fabrizio Miccoli and Fabio Liverani. When I was 18 and training with the senior squad, I had the incredible experience of being alongside superstars like
Dennis Bergkamp and Ruben Sosa.
TF: At the same time I understand you were selected in the Italian Under 20 squad?
AM: Yes, at the time when Roberto Boninsegna was coach I was in the Azzurri Under 20 squad and played in one European finals campaign.
TF: Where have you played throughout your career?
AM: I have spent my time playing at several clubs in the Serie C1 and C2. Prosesso, Mantova, Gualdo, Frosinone and most recently Lecco.
TF: How did you come to deciding about a career change in Australia?
AM: A former coach Maurizio Senno had a contact here in Lorenzo Pastorello and together with Lou Sticca I made the decision to accept an opportunity at the Mariners.
TF: What was your understanding of football in Australia prior to coming out here last month?
AM: I was aware that Australian football has developed to a great level, with many players in Europe and of course the great efforts of the national team.
TF: And the A-League?
AM: I was aware of the new competition and the resurgence of the game here. Although it isn't the major sport in Australia, the enthusiasm and the development is very exciting and I very keen to be a part of it.
TF: You are here currently on your own - will your family join soon?
AM: Yes my wife Alessia and my son Davide will hopefully be joining me very soon, I miss them greatly.
TF: You are living with one of your new Central Coast Mariners teammates at the moment?
AM: Yes, I am with Dean Heffernan at the moment. He is a great guy and obviously is a very major part of the team and club and is very respected. He has been very helpful in making me feel at home. Of course he is also very happy when I bring a little bit of home to the kitchen, when I cook an Italian meal for dinner!
TF: How have you settled in at the Mariners?
AM: The coaching staff, club personnel and everyone involved have been unbelievably supportive and have made me feel very welcome. Peter Turnbull has also been a great friend and host. I am enjoying it immensely and looking forward to playing a part in the on-field success of this progressive club.
TF: Have you made any long-term plans for your stay in Australia?
AM: At the moment I am just looking forward to showing everyone how big an asset I can be for the team in my initial six match stay. Before the initial contract expires I will speak with the club about the long-term plans. I came here with no pre-conceived idea as to how long I will be staying, but this is a fabulous country and if I was to stay one, two or three years or even longer is a scenario I look forward to very much, especially once my family joins me.