Australia captain Lucas Neill has returned to his homeland, signing a short-term deal with A-League club Sydney FC.
Neill will join Alessandro Del Piero and former Blackburn team-mate Brett Emerton at the Sky Blues for the remainder of the 2012-13 season.
Reports earlier in the week had linked Neill with a move to Melbourne Heart, but the defender instead chose to return to his home city. Neill’s first A-League appearance now seems set to take place next weekend against the Heart, as both clubs vie for a place in the finals series.
"I'm a Sydney boy and I’m excited to be coming back to Australia to play club football in front of friends and family with Sydney FC," Neill said.
"I worked with [coach] Frank [Farina] for many years in the Socceroos and I look back on those times with good memories, and it’s great to have the chance to enjoy further success together at Sydney FC. Hopefully the team can get a win today and I look forward to meeting my new team-mates tomorrow."
Having been released from UAE outfit Al Wasl last month, Neill became a free agent and was therefore able to join Sydney FC outside the transfer window on a free transfer.
"We're thrilled Lucas has joined Sydney FC," said Farina. "He is the current Socceroo captain and one of Australia's most decorated players but more importantly he is a tremendous defender and he will make a valuable contribution in the run in to the semi final series."
A decisive factor in Neill’s decision to return to Australia was a warning issued to him by national team boss Holger Osieck, who insisted the 34-year-old must be playing regular club football in order to be considered for upcoming World Cup qualifiers, which recommence next month in Sydney against Oman.