The Wellington Phoenix have made their first major move since securing a long-term place in the A-League, signing All Whites star Kosta Barbarouses from Melbourne Victory.
In one of the A-League's worst kept secrets, Barbarouses will leave Melbourne at the end of the season to link up with his hometown club, where he started his professional career back in 2007.
Wellington had made a flurry of re-signings after they were granted a conditional 10-year A-League licence by Football Federation Australia last month, but the recruitment of Barbarouses is a serious coup that has netted them one of the competition's premier players.
Barbarouses said he felt Wellington was only "three or four players" away from becoming a genuine A-League title contender.
"I've experienced a lot football wise over the last few years and am looking forward to using what I have learnt to help the Phoenix become successful," Barbarouses said.
"While I don't watch a lot of A-League games I always watch the Phoenix and I sense things are happening there and I want to be a part of it.
"Having just turned 26 I think it is a good age to be coming back with the experiences I have had overseas and genuinely believe we can do something special."
Barbarouses, who has scored 19 goals in 81 appearances across all competitions for Victory, is poised to form a deadly combination with Wellington's Fijian flyer Roy Krishna, who offers much of the same pace and attacking threat as he does.
"He has everything you look for in a top-class striker including tremendous energy and enthusiasm," Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick said.
"I believe he is one of the top strikers in the A-League and is also a Kiwi with a great attitude who is well liked here.
"He knows the Phoenix players, especially those he has been in the All Whites with, and will be a fan favourite from the moment he arrives back in his home town."
Melbourne Victory had hoped to keep Barbarouses and included him in their AFC Champions League squad at the expense of foreign pair Gui Finkler and Fahid Ben Khalfallah.
They will be able to change their allocation of visa players selected if they make it to the knockout stage.
"We understand the opportunity to move back home to be close to his family was a strong factor. We wish him all the best in the future," coach Kevin Muscat said.