Rizzo in yellow for Asian tilt

Qantas Socceroo midfielder Nick Rizzo has today been added to the Central Coast Mariners’ AFC Champions League squad in a further boost for the yellow and navy ahead of their maiden continental quest.

Qantas Socceroo midfielder Nick Rizzo has today been added to the Central Coast Mariners- AFC Champions League squad in a further boost for the yellow and navy ahead of their maiden continental quest.

Rizzo, 29, was most recently a key contributor to the Perth Glory-s Hyundai A-League 2007/08 and 2008/09 seasons – making 26 appearances and netting one goal in his first campaigns in Australia-s top flight since departing for Europe as a 17-year-old.

Capped at senior international level for Australia against Croatia in 1998, Rizzo has also represented his country at every restricted age level, including two substitute appearances for the Qantas Under 23-s at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney and two starts and two appearances off the bench for the Qantas Joeys (Under 17-s) at the 1995 FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Ecuador.

Prior to joining Mariners Hyundai A-League rivals the Glory in 2007, Rizzo had enjoyed a cosmopolitan career in Europe that included a stint at English Premier League giants Liverpool between 1996 and 1998 and considerable spells at lower-tier outfits Crystal Palace and Milton Keynes Dons.

Rizzo will link with his Mariners team-mates in the coming weeks to press his claims for a starting berth in the Mariners- historic first ever AFC Champions League fixture against Korean FA Cup winners Pohang Steelers at Bluetongue Stadium on Wednesday, 11 March.

“Nick-s signing further adds to our attacking depth and I-m certain that our whole squad will benefit from Nick’s tremendous level of experience gained from his many years playing at a very high level for club and country,” said Mariners Executive Chairman Lyall Gorman.

“Though Nick-s game time at Perth was limited, we saw enough evidence of his quality to suggest that he will become a valuable contributor to our AFC Champions League campaign, where Adelaide United have shown recently that squad depth is one of the cornerstones of a successful campaign.

“To that end, with Nick alongside the likes of Adrian Caceres, Ahmad Elrich, Adam Kwasnik and others, our attacking midfield stocks are impressive and, in our eyes, ample to give ourselves the best chance of success in Asia.”

At 174cm tall, Rizzo will be one of the Mariners- more diminutive attacking options and one that offers genuine pace and width moving forward – an asset that he showcased when given the opportunity at Members Equity Stadium over the past two years.

Rizzo-s highlight while at the Western Australian capital was his blistering 57th minute strike against the Queensland Roar in the Glory-s 4-1 loss in December of 2007 – the most telling occasion where Rizzo underlined the quality of his preferred left foot that will bolster the Mariners- options on the left flank.

Although uncapped while at Anfield with Liverpool, Rizzo would contribute nearly a half-century of appearances to Crystal Palace-s League Championship campaigns between 1998 and 2000, which included two goals in the League Cup and another strike in the League Championship.

Rizzo-s three years in Italy between 2000 and 2003 were followed by a second stint in England, where the Sydney-born midfield flyer made 60 appearances for Milton Keynes Dons in between loan spells at Chesterfield and Grimsby Town, who, interestingly are nicknamed the Mariners.

With Rizzo-s capture, the Mariners- AFC Champions League squad now totals 23, with a further seven signings able to be made by the Mariners by tomorrow-s registration deadline.

“I-m firstly delighted to have been given the chance by the Mariners to contribute to what is an incredibly exciting tournament for any professional player to be involved in and one that presents the club with a unique set of challenges,” said Rizzo.

“The Mariners have consistently been among the top teams in Australia and I have every confidence that the squad they have assembled for the AFC Champions League 2009 is one that is capable of emulating such domestic success in Asia.

“I look forward to meeting my new team-mates in the coming weeks and working towards an AFC Champions League campaign that we as a playing group and the whole of the Central Coast can be proud of.”

Nick Rizzo

Date of Birth 9 June 1979
Place of Birth Sydney, Australia
Position Midfielder
Height 174cm
Weight 70kg
Former Clubs 1996-98 Liverpool (England); 1998-2000 Crystal Palace (England); 2000-03 Ternana (Italy); 2001 AC Ancona (Italy); 2003-04 AC Prato (Italy); 2004-07 Milton Keynes Dons (England); 2007 Grimsby Town (England); 2007 Chesterfield (England); 2007-09 Perth Glory

The Mariners- bid for a berth in the Hyundai A-League Preliminary Final will continue at Suncorp Stadium on Friday, 13 February, when they again take on the Queensland Roar in the Minor Semi Final – 2nd Leg. Kick off is at 8.30pm AEDT.

The Mariners will next be at Bluetongue Stadium for the opening match of their maiden Asian adventure – an AFC Champions League 2009 clash against Korean FA Cup winners Pohang Steelers on Wednesday, 11 March.

Ticketing information for Mariners Members and supporters will be made available in the coming weeks.