Director of Football Bruce Djite feels Adelaide United have made a big statement in prying young midfielder Riley McGree away from Club Brugge.
In a first for the Reds in the Hyundai A-League, the club paid a transfer fee to the Belgian club to secure McGree on a three-year deal on Friday.
The 20-year-old playmaker is the first signing of the Gertjan Verbeek era and returns to the club where he burst onto the scene in 2017.
Gawler-born McGree was bought by the 15-time Belgian champions but spent the last two seasons on loan at Newcastle Jets and Melbourne City.
The Reds had the option of getting McGree back to the club on loan but they decided to buy him outright in a real show of faith over his talent.
“We had to weigh up if we get [McGree] on loan and help Club Brugge develop a diamond, or de we acquire the asset and that’s what we’ve done,” Djite told reporters on Friday.
“We’ve forked out some Euros to acquire him and it’s money well spent. I’m sure after one or two or three years with us, everyone will concur.”
Asked if this was a statement signing by the club, Djite declared: “It is a statement.
“I know people were getting a bit antsy about our movement in the market in terms of acquiring players, but there’s probably not a better Australian talent we could have signed.
“That’s what we have looked for and that’s what we have got.”
McGree will wear the no.8 shirt, the same number as departing skipper and club legend Isaias.
“It’s an honour and big shoes to fill,” McGree said.
“I’m hoping somewhat to live up to what [Isaias] created at this club and the person he was.”
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Djite revealed the Reds had their eyes on a ‘few prospective foreign targets’ they are hoping to add to the squad in coming weeks.
McGree will immediately begin pre-season training with the Reds and could make his first competitive appearance in next months FFA Cup 2019 Round of 32 clash against Melbourne Knights.