Just days before the launch of the 2013/14 season, Wellington Phoenix have signed Spanish midfielder Albert Riera (no, not that Albert Riera) on a one-year contract. The 29-year-old former paramedic has been with Auckland City of the ASB Premiership in New Zealand for the past three years and impressed Ernie Merrick when given a chance to train with the Phoenix last week.
Merrick explained the move in a club press release:
"Signing him gives us cover in midfield, which is vital. He is a ball winner and his passing is first class. He rarely gives the ball away and he will bring composure and on-field maturity to an important position.
"I had been looking for someone like Albert for a while because the modern game puts high physical demands on players, especially in midfield. On top of that, we face some challenges other A-League clubs don't have in that we often lose our All Whites on international duty."
Riera, who has played in two FIFA Club World Cups with Auckland City, expressed his excitement in joining New Zealand's A-League side:
"I am still shocked because it has all happened so quickly. All I was focused on was doing pre-season with Auckland to get myself fit for the coming season. When I spoke to Ernie and got to training, I understood what he wants from me and I want the same things.
"In Spain, I was a paramedic and played semi-professional football. It was hard work fitting in my job and training and it got to the point where I felt I needed a break. I decided to take a year off and do some traveling with friends. That was how I ended up in Auckland and now I am a professional footballer! How good is that?"
Wellington will be without Glen Moss, Andrew Durante, Leo Bertos and Jeremy Brockie due to international friendlies in the United States for the All Whites. Two of Riera's former Auckland teammates will also be part of that squad. The Phoenix debut on Sunday at home against Brisbane Roar.