Melbourne City bring in Ritchie de Laet on loan from Aston Villa
Melbourne City have bolstered their defence ahead of the A-League campaign, signing Belgian Ritchie de Laet from Aston Villa on a season-long loan.
The deal is the second in as many years from the English Championship club, having brought striker Ross McCormack on an injury replacement deal last term.
De Laet said the Scot, as well as Villa-based Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak, recommended the club after coach Warren Joyce came calling.
"When Warren called me, I was ready for something completely new," de Laet said. "I don't think you can get further away than Australia.
"I didn't need a second phone call, I was ready to come out here."
De Laet's impressive CV includes time with Manchester United and a Premier League winner's medal with Leicester City. He helped the underdogs seal promotion in 2014 but found himself on the fringes of the side during the unthinkable Premier League-winning season.
He moved to second-tier Middlesbrough on loan half-way through the campaign, helping Boro seal another promotion.
The 2015/16 campaign is the most recent season when De Laet featured in at least half of his side's matches. Since moving to Aston Villa he's battled injury and struggled for selection, resulting in a loan back to his native Belgium.
It was there that he first encountered City boss Joyce, who began his coaching career at Manchester United-aligned Royal Antwerp. De Laet followed Joyce to United but failed to make an impression at the powerhouse club. He is eligible to play in Wednesday night's FFA Cup quarter-final with Western Sydney and is likely to take Nathaniel Atkinson's place at right-back for the season ahead.
"I'm a right back by trade but I can play anywhere across the back four or wide in midfield," he said. "I like to attack. I like to run. I think one of my main strengths is my speed.
"It's an incredible project here ... we want to win the league and go from there."
De Laet takes the club's second marquee position after striker Bruno Fornaroli.