FABIO Vignaroli will be the highest-paid player in the Newcastle Jets' history after the Italian agreed last night to a one-year deal worth more than $300,000.
In a move that will delight the Newcastle faithful, Vignaroli will make his A-League debut as the club's marquee player against Wellington Phoenix in the season opener at EnergyAustralia Stadium on Sunday.
Vignaroli, 33, had been seeking a three-year contract and was set to walk out on the club on Tuesday.
But the former Lazio midfielder had a change of heart after an eleventh-hour meeting with owner Con Constantine and director of football Remo Nogarotto at Parklea last night.
"The Newcastle Jets have delivered," Constantine said. "This is 100 per cent the best signing we have ever made. He will be the highest-paid player in the history of the Jets beyond any doubt.
"Not just on the park off the park he is a gentleman. I have to give him 10 out of 10. He is going to take us to another level."
Initially signed for the Asian Champions League, Vignaroli will be the Jets' fifth marquee player, following Ned Zelic, Ante Covic, Mario Jardel and Edmundo Zura. The most recent two were failures and were released mid-season.
Vignaroli has been looking at property in Newcastle and will bring his wife, Monica, and three children out from Italy this month.
The announcement on Vignaroli was music to the ears of coach Branko Culina.
"I am just relieved that it is all over and we can focus on Sunday," Culina said.
"Fabio is a perfect marquee player. We had him in the ACL and knew exactly what we are getting.
"There is no guessing.
"Having him on board is going to lift everyone."
Constantine said the recruitment of Vignaroli was a sign the Jets meant business.
"I am trying my hardest," he said. "I want Newcastle to be there, be the best.
"We want our supporters to come back to the game, because we are trying everything in our power to get this over the line.
"The Jets are flying. All we need now are the supporters to fly with us."
Vignaroli will put pen to paper on the contract today and it will be lodged with Football Federation Australia in time for the game against Wellington.
Even though the deal is for one year, Nogarotto said Constantine had made a commitment to discuss an extension in November.
"We have discussed what the parameters will be for next year," Nogarotto said.
"It is a question of us all sitting around a table and saying this all works."
Nogarotto, who recruited Vignaroli for the ACL, said the Italian brought more than just quality on the field.
"I think he brings a steadying influence and a mentoring influence, which is badly needed and that we probably have not had since Paul Okon was at the club," he said.
Culina said he would wait until Saturday to decide whether Vignaroli, who has played 80 minutes in two trials, would start against Phoenix.
The Jets lost another player to injury yesterday when Shaun Ontong pulled up with a groin strain.
He joins Ben Kantarovski, Jobe Wheelhouse and Kaz Patafta on the sideline.
Matt Thompson trained in the midfield yesterday and Culina said former Sydney FC youth captain Chris Triantis was likely to be signed to a short-term deal as an injury replacement.
The 21-year-old midfielder led Sydney to the youth league title last season and has been playing with Sydney Olympic in the NSW Premier League.
"It is more than likely we will go with Chris for a six-week period," Culina said. "We were going to wait another week until we were a bit surer, but when Ontong got injured we virtually had no choice."
The Jets can bring in an injury replacement for Marko Jesic, who had a knee reconstruction last month and is out for the season. "We were going to wait another week until we were a bit surer on that one," Culina said.
Honduran striker Saul Martinez trained with fellow triallists Solomon Azhibje and Petr Kratky yesterday.
"I did not mind him," Culina said of Martinez.
"He is 33. He is short, so he has to prove to us that he is nippy and can zip about and be a nuisance. The other Nigerian boy [Azhibje], skill-wise, he does not quite have what it takes, but he does offer a little aggression."