Sydney: Former Juventus great Alessandro Del Piero has vowed to take the game in Australia to a new level as football chiefs on Thursday hailed his signing as a transformational boost to the sport.
The deal to bring the 2006 World Cup winner Down Under was sealed on Wednesday, with Del Piero opting for Sydney FC ahead of clubs including Premier League giants Liverpool on a two-year contract reportedly worth US$2 million a season.
The Italian legend, who spent 19 years at Juventus, scoring 208 goals in 513 appearances, insisted he was not heading to Australia for a holiday, saying he wanted to score goals and build the game's profile.
"I'm coming to Sydney to score and to win and I'm hoping that Australian football, with my help, can grow," he said.
"I've got the desire and determination to help the sport grow. That's a big drive for me. I want to play in front of full stadiums.
"I will give everything and put everything into it I can."
Football Federation Australia chief executive Ben Buckley said Del Piero's signing would significantly boost the A-League's global image and accelerate growth of the competition, which is entering its eighth season.
"Undoubtedly, this signing will have an immediate impact on attendances, membership, TV ratings and corporate support for the club and the A-League," he said.
"All clubs will benefit when Alessandro comes to town. His stature in international football is well known, but it's his desire to put back into the game and create a legacy in Australia that's so impressive.
"The arrival of Del Piero will also impact on the technical quality of A-League, which was rated at an all-time high last season. This will ensure we remain in the elite tier of the top Asian professional leagues," he added.
Sydney FC star Brett Emerton said Del Piero's arrival would be a "shot in the arm" for Australian football.
"I can honestly say that when I left Blackburn for Sydney FC last year, I didn't expect to be playing alongside someone like Del Piero," he said in a column for News Limited newspapers.
"You only have to look at the calibre of clubs internationally that were chasing him to realise that, even at 37, he is still a world-class striker."
Del Piero's signing is the biggest coup in A-League history and Sydney FC chairman Scott Barlow said it was "for all Australian football fans".
Sydney FC coach Ian Crook, a former player with Spurs and Norwich in England, said he would give the Italian free rein.
"We need to give him some licence," Crook told reporters.
"Obviously we'll talk when he comes in, in terms of our shape and our structure. But there's never a headache when it's something like this, because it's just great to have him here."