With their defence largely a known quantity for a number of months now, the front line of the A-League’s newest side received another major addition on Thursday after the official unveiling Alessandro Diamanti as a Western United player.
The 36-year-old Italian playmaker joins a United attack following a season with Tuscan side Livorno in the Italian Serie B in which he netted ten times and played a pivotal role in ensuring the club avoided the drop to the third tier of Italian football.
As well as having stints with the likes of West Ham, Bologna, Fiorentina, Watford, Atalanta, Palermo, and Guangzhou Evergrande in clubland, Diamanti has also represented the famous Azzuri 17 times in his international career.
Beyond filling a need for a playmaker for the A-League newcomers, the veteran Italian will immediately slot in alongside the likes of former Brescia and Bologna teammate Panagiotis Kone and Scott McDonald as one of the leaders of United’s attacking group, something Western United Director of Football Steve Horvat welcomed.
“Obviously, the signing of Alessandro Diamanti is a big one for us because we’ve really been focusing on getting a No.10 in in that front third of the pitch,” Horvat said.
“What he’s going to provide to the team is not only scoring goals – his set-pieces – but it’s also in that final third, that killer ball, that pass to unlock a defence. Everyone knows how difficult it is to find quality No.10s and he’s a player of that quality, so we’re really excited about to get him in.
“And getting him in relatively early as well, we’ve got quite a bit of time now. We go away with the squad for a training camp soon which is really about not only the stuff on the park but off the park. Drive our culture, our values and what we want the playing group to stand for.”
Though United Head Coach Mark Rudan did explain that his side had identified a clear archetype of player that they were looking for when it came to signing players and were prepared to wait for the right player, Horvat explained that the move to secure the services of Diamanti had its genesis less than a month ago.
“We took our time and when his name came up a couple of weeks ago, we did our research and knew he’d be a perfect fit for us,” Horvat explained.
“His quality is obvious, he had a great season last year in Serie B.
“It all came together really quickly.
“Which is important because it’s a sign that he was keen to come. I think, obviously, that connection with Panagiotis Kone, having played with him for three years, helped.
“That chemistry on the park as well as off the park between the two could be very important for us this season. They’re both super quality players, you don’t play at the clubs and the leagues that they have for that long without being quality.
“It’s really exciting now to see the squad coming together. We sat on 19 players for quite a long time and this is now signing 20 and we’ve got a couple more to go.”
Seemingly set at the back with the likes of Andrew Durante, Jonathan Aspropotamitis, Josh Risdon, Aaron Calver, Ersan Gülüm, Brendan Hamill and Dylan Perias already on the books, it is almost certain that the final signings made by United will be of an attacking nature.
Thirty-five-year-old McDonald and 20-year-old Young Socceroo Apostolos Stamatelopoulos are the only out-and-out attackers currently slated to pull on the green and black United shirt in 2019-20 and, with the two on the opposite end of their prime years, the position is an obvious hole in the expansion side’s roster.
“Obviously we probably need another No.9,” Horvat said.
“We’re really looking for competition for places. I think if you look at the squad in its entirety there is really cover all over the park… and good cover.
“That’s really important, you can’t underestimate what that means when every day on the park when you’ve got that competitiveness and competition for places and players working hard.”
Despite having two more foreign slots to play with, though, Horvat gave no guarantees that any attacking additions would require a passport to make their way to Melbourne’s west.
“We’re not wed on that,” the United Director of Football said when asked about foreign attackers.
“Obviously there are five foreign slots and we still have a couple more but we want the best player, we want the best fit.
“Whether that’s an Australian player, whether that’s a visa player, that’s not really the key in terms of who the signing will be.
“Mark (Rudan) values the character of the player pretty much above everything else. That’s a really big factor in terms of who we select for the football club, so that will override whether it’s a visa or a non-visa.
“They’ve all got to have quality and bring something to the squad but they’ve also got to have the right character.
“We’re big on Australian talent as a football club. Being an expansion club, we’re not only providing opportunities for players but also our staff; we’re providing opportunities for Australian coaches.
“The foreign players that we bring in have to bring something special and something extra that an Australian player doesn’t.”