It took Melbourne Victory captain Carl Valeri’s teammates – at the height of their A-League championship celebrations – to convince their skipper to go around one more time.
Valeri, 34, signed a one-year deal to stay on at the helm of the A-League superpower weeks after their fourth title in May.
The midfielder was unsigned as Victory’s season reached a stunning crescendo in the finals series with away defeats of Sydney FC and Newcastle to seal the championship.
Throughout, Victory wanted their captain to stay, but the veteran delayed putting pen to paper as he chased another trophy.
As he returned to Melbourne after the grand final, he was still unclear on whether it would be his last game.
“I went away and the boys kind of talked me into it in the end,” he said.
“I was able to take that time, I was very lucky and very fortunate and not many players have that luxury.
“(Coach) Kevin (Muscat) supported me through the whole thing. He said there’s something there for you. Let me know your decision. The club supported me.”
Valeri said the central question was “Am I going to be as committed as much as I am?”.
“If I’m not 100 per cent then I didn’t want to be baggage,” he said.
“I’ve seen it happen to players in the past. They become baggage and you become toxic.
“It was the right decision and I was really glad I signed.
“Who knows if I will go on again but I’m 100 per cent focused on this year.”
Ahead of his fifth domestic season, Valeri reported his body was in tip-top shape.
But the reality is he might not be required for the full 27-round campaign after a busy off-season of recruitment from Muscat.
Spaniard Raul Baena joins the midfield ranks, where both Valeri, Leigh Broxham, Terry Antonis and Josh Hope can operate.
Further forward, new signings Ola Toivonen and Keisuke Honda are expected to shake up Victory’s attacking style this season – which begins on Saturday night with the Melbourne derby.
“We are going to be playing a different style. Kevin has alluded to that in his interviews,” Valeri said.
“An exciting style, but the core principles of the way we played in the last four years that I’ve been involved are the same.
“The DNA will be the same. We will be an aggressive team, not by tackles but by pressure.
“We are going to take it step by step and what a first big step to take in the derby.”