Midfielder Brett Emerton will leave Blackburn Rovers to play for Sydney FC on a three-season deal, the Australian club said today. Emerton, 32, will join Harry Kewell in this season's A-League after his long-time Socceroo team-mate joined Melbourne Victory in a similar deal last weekend.
Emerton becomes the first player to exchange the English Premier League for the A-League and returns to his home town after an 11-year career in Europe, where he played 338 matches for Feyenoord and Blackburn. "This is an exciting opportunity for me," he said. "I'm a Sydney boy and I'm looking forward to representing the people of Sydney every week and playing in front of friends, family and football fans."
With 87 international appearances, Emerton is the second-most capped Socceroo. He represented Australia at the 2006 and 2010 FIFA World Cup™. He remains a first-choice national team member under coach Holger Osieck and said he has every intention of playing on until the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
"Football has been very good to me and I have always said I'd like to come back and play in the A-League while I still have something to offer," he said. "Thanks to Sydney FC and Blackburn Rovers that opportunity has come about a bit earlier than I had thought."
Sydney FC said Emerton had become available a year earlier than expected after he requested and was granted a release from the final year of his contract with Blackburn Rovers. "Brett is an incredible role model for all young footballers in Australia and his return to his home town of Sydney, while he is still at the peak of his powers, is a major coup for Sydney FC and the A-League," Sydney FC Vice Chairman Scott Barlow said.
Emerton will play his last game for Blackburn Rovers after an eight-year stint when he takes on Tim Cahill's Everton at Ewood Park on Saturday. Sydney FC open their 2011/12 A-League campaign against Kewell's Melbourne Victory on 8 October.