|By PADDY HIGGS
Francesco Stella has returned home to sign with Melbourne Victory, just days after his release from Scottish club Rangers.
The 21-year-old South Melbourne product has signed a two-and-a-half year deal at the A-League club, having moved permanently to Europe when he joined Serie A outfit Siena in December 2009.
Skilful attacker Stella joined Rangers in August after their relegation to the Scottish Third Division, but made just one substitute appearance for the fallen giants.
Interest from Victory coach Ange Postecoglou prompted a request to be released from the Glasgow club, and a move back to his home town was quickly sealed.
"Having been away for a few seasons now, it's exciting to be coming home to play for Melbourne Victory," Stella said via club statement.
"Being overseas has been an experience that I have learnt a lot from, both good and bad, and I feel it has helped me grow both as a footballer and a person. It's extremely competitive over in Europe and at 21, I want to be playing regular first-team football if I'm going to continue my development as a player.
"I really like the way Ange wants to play, so hopefully I can have an impact at Melbourne Victory and help the club achieve success over the next few seasons."
First-team football has been hard to find for the youngster, having not experienced regular game time since his loan from Siena to Lega Pro Seconda Divisione outfit Borgo a Buggiano during the 2011-12 season.
Stella will arrive in Melbourne next week and will be hoping for an opportunity to fill the void left by the long-term injury to Brazilian attacker Gui Finkler.
"Francesco is a young player with plenty of talent and I believe we can really develop him over the next two-and-a-half years," Postecoglou said.
"For a club like Siena to see potential in him when he was just 17 years old is a fair indication of his quality.
"While things didn't work out for him over in Europe this time, the prospect of first team football was enticing to him and I'm confident we’ve got ourselves a player who can perform regularly in the A-League."