Alessandro Del Piero and his Sydney FC team-mates have arrived in Wellington for Saturday’s A-League opener against the Phoenix.
The Italian star signed shirts and posed for photos with fans at the airport but gave little away about whether or not he would start the match at Westpac Stadium.
“Maybe yes. I don’t know. Crookie (Sydney coach Ian Crook) will tell us tomorrow or maybe tonight,” the 37-year-old said.
Even if he does start it seems unlikely he would play the full 90 minutes given his last competitive match was in May and he has only had one intra-club game since arriving at the Sky Blues.
“I try to play first of all good, then we watch the minutes,” Del Piero said.
But it was clear he was looking forward to his first taste of A-League action.
“It’s all new for me. But I’m very curious and I’m very excited and I want to know what it means to play A-League, especially in Wellington,” he said.
“Some of my team-mates have told me about it. But I want to know for myself.”
Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert certainly expects the 2006 World Cup winner to start.
“I’m assuming he will play. If you pay two or three million dollars you probably want him on the field not on the bench,” said Herbert.
“It’s pretty cool we’ve got him first up. It will be great for our fans too.
“This can be a tough league for players to come into. Some of the other marquee players that have come have struggled. Was Harry Kewell successful or not? You can make your own mind up. I think it will be a test for him (Del Piero). But he’s a quality player.”
Herbert has only one real selection headache, whether to start Paul Ifill or give teenager Louis Fenton a run.
Ifill’s knee and ankle injuries mean he has played just 45 minutes against local opposition in the past couple of weeks.
“He’s got through the week really well but he’s missed a little bit of work so he’s 50-50 (to start),” explained Herbert.
“He’ll definitely be involved in the squad.”
Fenton has barely put a foot wrong since he was signed up to the Phoenix’s school of excellence in June then handed one of the club’s under-20 A-League contracts last month.
“I’ve been really impressed with Louis. The academy has only been running a few months but he’s been a real treasure for us to get,” said Herbert.
One player guaranteed a start is Jeremy Brockie, who has been in fine goal-scoring form in pre-season.
The former Newcastle Jets player has netted 18 times and is keen to get the ball rolling in the competition proper.
“My confidence is high at the moment. I’ve been waiting a couple of weeks now (for the season to start) so hopefully I can get off the mark tomorrow,” he said.
The 2011/12 was a breakthrough season for Brockie. He was injury-free, shifted to a more central attacking role and got on the score sheet nine times.
“I had a really good pre-season. I dropped a couple of kilos and just really looked after my body. It all seemed to flow on from there,” he explained.
“I scored a couple of goals early on in the season and I was confident and I had an injury-free season for the first time since I started playing professionally.
“I’ve come here full of confidence. The boys have welcomed me and now scoring goals in pre-season I’m just happy and excited and just looking forward to tomorrow night.”