Ciao Vince Grella! It’s time to come home
The talk of former Socceroo Vincenzo Grella returning to Melbourne has become more and more prominent in recent weeks, with the latest street whispers linking the midfielder maestro with the Melbourne Heart.
It is common knowledge that Melbourne-born Grella has been out and about in Melbourne town ‘sight-seeing’ over the past few months, yet the prospect of the enforcer playing football in this town has become a very realistic prospect.
‘Vinnie’ would without a doubt be a worthy addition to the Red and White of Melbourne who definitely have some loose change about following the highly publicised sales of some young blood.
While the lure of the Middle East and its overabundance of oil money are definitely there, the attraction of Melbourne and its familiar offerings would surely be an inviting prospect to a Melbourne boy now with a family of his own.
With over a decade abroad, home may just be too hard for this former Socceroo to resist.
Grella, the Socceroos’ very own ‘Italian Stallion’ was born in Dandenong in 1979, to Italian parents Maria and Antonio. They settled in Melbourne well and without a doubt were the driving force behind Vincenzo’s love for all things Melbourne.
Grella has proven over the years that he adores Melbourne and his passion for this city has never waned. He is still the youngest player to ever enter the Victorian Institute of Sport at the age of 14.
Brought up through the same ranks as the Socceroos golden generation, Vinnie began really emerging as a star prospect when the Australian Institute of Sport identified his talent and took him on board after the rapid development seen in his home state.
His move to the AIS quickly paid dividends when the Canberra Cosmos took him on board at the age of 17, in Australia’s National Socceroo League.
As a 17 year old, Grella was already playing in Australia’s major footballing league, in fact not long after his stint in the nation’s capital he would become a regular for Carlton S.C.
At 18 years of age Vinnie had claimed a starting spot for one of Melbourne’s biggest clubs. Alongside fellow brother in arms Mark ‘Marco’ Bresciano they would go on to form a lethal partnership on and off the field. It was this NSL birth that paved the way for Grella’s departure for Italy.
Returning to his Italian roots, he landed a contract in Italy’s Serie A when he signed for Tuscan club Empoli. At 19 years of age the Tuscan dream burned deep inside Grella and he fell in love with the city of his ancestors, whilst on the field he was marking players such as Juventus superstar Zinedine Zidane. Italy had now become home for this Melbourne boy.
It didn’t take long for Mark Bresciano to follow his colleague to Italy, with the two reigniting their friendship at the Tuscan club for several years. The two would be regulars for the club, reminiscent of their Carlton days.
Their friendship would only develop further down the years after this boyhood dream was realised together. Whilst on the field the two would learn to play the beautiful game in arguably Italy’s most beautiful city.
While Bresciano would steal the limelight with a title of ‘most expensive Socceroo,’ with a move to Parma in 2002 worth over €7 million, Grella just kept doing his thing and was becoming an established player in Italy.
In 2003 Grella’s performances for the blue of Empoli had him linked to a move to powerhouse A.C Milan and would land him his Socceroos debut against England. However it would be another reunion for him and Marco when he signed for Parma in 2004.
These two would become cornerstone performers for the Australian national team, becoming Socceroo immortals after their exploits at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Grella would play against Uruguay in both 2005 qualifiers, becoming part of the famous line up that would qualify for the first World Cup in 32 years. From nowhere, this Italian boy from Melbourne had arrived.
The rise to prominence on a national level for Grella was something of what dreams are made, becoming a regular Socceroo in a few years. He would dictate the Socceroos midfield like no other with his performances in the World Cup in Germany landing him a preliminary spot in FIFA’s Team of the Tournament.
Grella combined poise and delicate passing with beautiful brutality in his defensive play, breaking up countless world-class midfields. Vinnie had announced himself on the world stage.
Grella would go on to captain the Socceroos in a 2006 friendly against Ghana following the World Cup, showing a well-deserved sign of recognition for his consistent performances. Sadly a disappointing Asian Cup campaign would await the Socceroos in 2007, with their performances being criticised by the nation’s fans and experts. Vinnie would never replicate his feats in Germany for the national team.
It would be following the World Cup in 2006 where Bresciano would make another big money move to the pink of Palermo while Grella would be handed the Parma captaincy in the 2006/2007 Serie A season.
Vinnie was ready to claim some headlines of his own after gallantly helping Parma avoid relegation for a second season in a row and becoming a legitimate Socceroo star.
Grella would sign for fellow Serie A side Torino after his stellar performances for Parma and Australia. He became an integral part of this Torino side for several years, becoming one of the best defensive midfielders in Italy’s premier competition.
Never a noted goal scorer, Grella would score an amazing volley in his time in Torino, being put up as a goal of the season contender in January of 2008. For Grella, a dream move to England’s Premier League beckoned.
Unfortunately England would not be as welcoming for Grella as his beloved Italy after his reported £4 million move to Blackburn Rovers would without a doubt be the toughest period in his career.
Hurt by recurring injuries and manager movements, Vinnie never showed the same amount of spark as he did in Italy.
Over three years at Ewood Park would produce less than 40 appearances, with only nine appearances over his last two seasons. Whenever fit though, he would prove to be one of their best players, claiming a memorable ‘man of the match’ in his home debut for the club. However these encouraging displays were rarely sighted in his time at Blackburn due to his tragic luck.
Grella has now been without a club since his exit from Ewood Park and the combative midfielder could ponder a return to Italy, money in the Middle East or return home to Melbourne. There is some romanticism of him finishing his career in the town he holds so dear.
Whether in the Blue or Red of Melbourne it is time to say ‘benvenuto’ and settle down in Melbourne. Home is where the Heart is as they say.
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