Australian football's prodigal son, Harry Kewell, has returned home. Except home is no longer where he left it. Now, for Kewell, home is where the Heart is.
It has been just over a year since Kewell, 33, left the A-League and Melbourne Victory, putting his family before football to return to England. During that self-imposed exile there were rumours linking him to both Premier League and Championship clubs, but when one of Australia's finest players emerged in the Middle East for a three-match stint with Qatar club Al-Gharafa, many wondered if Kewell was on a voyage back to native shores.
There were stories of a Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival meeting with Perth Glory owner Tony Sage, while the Newcastle Jets made no secret of their pursuit, but in the end, when the announcement of his homecoming was made, Melbourne again was the city of choice. But unlike his previous A-League incarnation, Kewell would not be returning to the Victory. Instead, he would make his way across the divide and join their arch-rivals, the Melbourne Heart.
"I have always remained interested in returning to play [in Melbourne]," Kewell told ESPN. "I firmly believe that I still have unfinished business in the A-League and would love to come out and prove that I still have plenty to offer.
"I love Melbourne and Melbourne Heart -- that is the right fit for me."
But what will be waiting for Kewell on his return to Melbourne?
Kewell's former Socceroo team-mate John Aloisi starts his second season as head coach of the Heart after serving his apprenticeship under former boss John van't Schip. However, under Aloisi, the Heart failed to deliver on their burgeoning promise, as only goal difference separated them from the bottom of the table. But in a bid to right the wrongs of last season, Aloisi has led a rather impressive off-season recruitment drive.
Including Kewell, no less than eight players have been brought in this season, with Aloisi mixing A-League experience [Kewell, Massimo Murdocca, Iain Ramsay and former Heart defender Aziz Behich] with some impressive international experience [Rob Wielaert, Orlando Engelaar, Michael Mifsud and Patrick Kisnorbo].
However, there are already teething problems. Former PSV Eindhoven defender Engelaar suffered a broken leg in pre-season, former Socceroo Kisnorbo has been battling a long injury nightmare, while Wielaert and Mifsud, as has been seen in A-League newcomers, may take time to adjust to their new surroundings.
Kewell, though, backed Aloisi to meld this new squad together and deliver on the club's potential, while taking it upon himself to lead from the front as the club's new captain.
"It has been great working with John. He is a former teammate and a friend but we both know what we are here for and where to draw a professional line," Kewell said. "I am happy to be flexible and fit into John's structure where I am required.
"I feel that I still have a lot to offer. As well as proving to the Australia public and the A-League that I still have the ability to play at the top level here in my country.
"My main priority is to help this team and help to develop the club's younger players and to provide my knowledge and experience so that they can succeed. My teammates have been fantastic since day one and have made me feel very welcome.
"I think we have a very balanced squad this season and we have quite a few exciting attacking players that aren't afraid to get forward.
"We have a strong structure from the back line up to our forwards so we are confident in ourselves and in our squad."
Just how confident Kewell, Aloisi, and the Heart as a whole, will severely be tested from the opening game as, for the second successive season, the Heart will travel the very short distance to the Etihad for the grudge match against the Victory.
Despite only entering its fourth edition, this clash rarely fails to deliver, but with Kewell returning to his old stomping ground in enemy colours -- the first major turncoat between these two rivals -- many are expecting this match to ignite a new level of intensity.
But for one who has experienced the battle of Merseyside and the heaving cauldron of an Istanbul derby, Kewell is preparing as if this was just another game, focusing only on kick-starting the latest chapter of his career with a positive result.
Whether Victory fans can lay the past to rest is another question all together.
"It should be an interesting game and a great way to start the season and I'm really looking forward to it," Kewell said about the Melbourne derby. "I -- like a lot of players -- can't wait for the season to start.
"But we're focussing on the pre-season at the moment to ensure that we're ready for round one. When round one comes, we'll be ready and we'll look forward to the occasion, whatever the opposition fans serve up!"
And should Kewell again light up stadiums across the country this season, there is a feeling that a recall to the Socceroos could not be too far away. Kewell has not featured for Socceroos since late 2011, but given the squad's lack of form in recent times, and the shifting nature of who is the country's preferred striker, a fit and firing Kewell may be hard to overlook.
It's a theory that Kewell is hoping will send him to his third consecutive World Cup.
"I've always believed that if you play well for your club, you have the opportunity to play for your country," Kewell said. "The goal is first and foremost to help Melbourne Heart on and off the field.
"If I receive attention or a call up for my performances, that is a bonus, but I am here primarily to help Melbourne Heart."
Last season finish: 9th
Ins: Orlando Engelaar, Rob Wielaert, Harry Kewell, Massimo Murdocca, Tando Velaphi, Iain Ramsay, Stefan Mauk, Patrick Kisnorbo, Michael Mifsud, Andrea Migliorini, Aziz Behich (loan)
Outs: Clint Bolton (retired), Josip Tadic, Eli Babalj, Simon Colosimo, Matt Thompson, Fred, Marcel Meeuwis, Jamie Coyne
Prediction:This is a big year for John Aloisi and the Heart. The former Socceroo has been the busiest manager in the market and has signed quality across the field. But the impressive recruitment drive has upped the pressure and a finals spot is surely the bottom line for the club. If the Red and White of Melbourne fail in this endeavour, Aloisi may face the greatest challenge of his young managerial career -- keeping his job.