After spending the A-League off-season overseas with a suitcase and a dream, Melbourne Heart defender Michael Marrone isn't packing either away just yet.
Coming off a breakout year with the Heart and expecting an off-season break, Marrone was given 48 hours' notice of a trial with English Premier League club Queens Park Rangers.
That started an odyssey which took in four European clubs and brought him agonisingly close to sealing a deal with Italian Serie A club Cagliari.
But it fell through, and the 24-year-old returns to the Heart to prepare for a new A-League season he hopes will be a springboard to a permanent overseas deal.
"Of course, there are always fees involved with this stuff and English clubs aren't that rich at that level, because I trialled with two Championship clubs and a League One club," Marrone told AAP of his stints with QPR, Leicester and Charlton.
"In Italy - I heard a couple of weeks in advance there might be a bit of interest. And it was Cagliari - a Serie A team. How can you turn that down?"
Marrone impressed at Cagliari and their former Italian manager Roberto Donadoni was keen to sign him - believing he could play as a wide midfielder or wing-back.
But just after Cagliari had an initial bid turned down by the Heart, Donadoni was shown the door after falling out with the club president.
And the new manager pulled the rug on negotiations to sign Marrone.
"The trial went really well. They made a bid, the (Heart) rejected it, and they were in the process of making another bid and then the stuff with Donadoni happened.
"If it had happened sooner and happened quickly, something could have been done and I could have been over there. But that's football, isn't it?"
Instead, Marrone will line up for the Heart against Perth Glory at AAMI Park on Sunday - the club's first home match of the season.
Right-back Marrone is a vital player in the Heart's plans after his metronome-like consistency in their debut year.
In coach John van 't Schip's ball-playing, attack-minded structure, getting his fullbacks forward and back in a timely manner goes a long way to ensuring success.
Defending will be doubly important against the Glory, who have a range of dangerous attacking weapons led by prolific Kiwi striker Shane Smeltz.
Marrone hopes his European experience, including playing alongside former England striker Darius Vassell at Leicester, will translate into an even better year with the Heart.
"It's different to last season because last season we were still getting players two weeks before the season started," he said.
"To have everyone together for five months has been good. Everyone's got the same direction in how we want to play now.
"You have your first-year blues and you work out the kinks.
"Everyone's learned a lot, the staff and players, and we're definitely in a better position to be able to contend for the finals."