23-time Socceroo returns to the A-Leagues after eight years abroad: Full details

Western United have announced the signing of 23-time Socceroo Nikita Rukavytsya on a one-year deal.

Rukavytsya joins the club after an impressive eight-year stint in Israel, playing for the likes of Beitar Jerusalem, Hapoel Be’er Sheva and Maccabi Haifa, who released him at the end of last season.

It was during the first of his two stints at Maccabi where the 36-year-old striker enjoyed an incredible career renaissance, winning the 2019-20 and 2020-21 Israeli Premier League Golden Boot – scoring 41 goals in two seasons – along with two league titles in 2021 and 2023.

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Incredibly, he was ranked the 12th best striker in world football and the seventh best in Europe by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS) in November 2020, behind Robert Lewandowski, Erling Haaland, Cristiano Ronaldo, Romelu Lukaku, Rauno Sappinen and Ciro Immobile.

The Socceroo also featured in each of Maccabi’s six UEFA Champions League group stage contests last season, against the likes of Paris Saint Germain, Juventus and Benfica.

“I’m excited for this season. It’s a relatively fresh club but it already tasted success a few years ago and I’m looking forward to having a successful season,” he said.

“My main goal this season is to give my experience, quality and my 100% to the club. From what I’ve heard, there are great people and everyone who’s involved with the club, and the fans.

“So hopefully we can have a successful season and make everyone and the fans happy.”

Rukavytsya has previous experience in the A-Leagues, having burst onto the scene with Perth Glory in 2007, before joining Western Sydney Wanderers in 2014.

His two stints in the A-Leagues came either side of spells in Europe with Dutch side FC Twente, where we won the Eredivisie, German outfits Mainz, Hertha Berlin and FSV Frankfurt ,and Belgian club Roeselare.

On the international stage, Rukavytsya was first capped by the Socceroos in 2009 and was part of Australia’s 2010 FIFA World Cup squad which was knocked out in the group stage – making substitute appearances against Germany and Ghana.

His last appearance in the national side came in a 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier against China in November 2021.

Western coach John Aloisi said he’s looking forward to integrating the veteran striker into the side this season.

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“Nikita is a fantastic signing for us. He has shown his ability to score and assist at a high rate across the world and we look forward to him bringing his talent into our team,” Aloisi said.

“His experience in big leagues and competitions across the world will be important for us and we are equally buoyant about the impact he will be able to have on our young core of players.

“With pace and quality up front, a great work ethic and fantastic leadership, we are confident Nikita will excite our fans this season and help us achieve our goals.”

Rukavytsya will link up with emerging striker Noah Botic and experienced Serbian No. 9 Aleksandar Prijovic, whose future at the club is still up in the air.

The striker is the club’s eighth new signing this off-season, joining Angus Thurgate, Thomas Heward-Belle, Matthew Sutton, Daniel Penha, Riku Danzaki, Kane Vidmar and James Donachie as Western’s latest arrivals.

Aloisi’s side kick off their A-Leagues season against Melbourne City on October 21 at AAMI Park.