Bertos back in black and gold for three more

WELLINGTON Phoenix FC has signalled its intentions for the future by re-signing New Zealand international Leo Bertos for three more seasons in the Hyundai A-League.

The supremely gifted 27-year-old midfield ace has been one of the star performers in the Hyundai A-League since its inception in 2005, first with Perth Glory and then with the Phoenix for the past two seasons.

Born and bred in Wellington, Bertos is one of the finest players ever produced in New Zealand and has been a standout for the capital club, having played 24 games and scoring four goals to date. Most importantly, Bertos is a sublimely skilled playmaker who already leads the 2009/10 competition for goal assists.

Phoenix chief executive Tony Pignata said Bertos was the sort of player the club could build a strong team around in the future.

“Leo-s had a fantastic season for us so far and we believed it was imperative that we re-signed him and that we did it quickly before all the other clubs came chasing him. We identified him some time ago as a priority and he was always keen to stay here in Wellington. Leo will continue to be a significant core player around whom we can build an extremely competitive team in the coming seasons.

“Leo-s the sort of player fans love to watch because he-s always involved, he takes opposition players on and he creates chances.”

The deal with Bertos also signals the Phoenix-s intent to become a major player in the Hyundai A-League this season and beyond.

“This is indicative of the club-s commitment and that of (owner) Terry Serepisos that we-re here for the long haul,” said Pignata. “We need players, fans and sponsors to understand that this club has an extremely bright future in the short, medium and long term.

“We-ll be around for the years to come and we-re currently working with Football Federation Australia to ensure that does happen.”

Bertos was thrilled to have his playing future secured in Wellington till at least 2012/13.

“This is my home town, my family-s here and so are my friends. But it-s also a great move for me career-wise. The club has been excellent from day one and is going from strength to strength. I-m honoured to be given the opportunity to keep playing a part on the field as a Phoenix player and off it as someone who can contribute to the amazing developing the game in New Zealand.”

Bertos, currently on the Gold Coast preparing for the Phoenix-s match against Gold Coast United on Friday night, is also an international player on the cusp of appearing at the World Cup finals with New Zealand.

The Phoenix-s six All Whites – and coach Ricki Herbert – will fly to the Middle East following Friday night-s match for the first of home-and-away qualifiers against Bahrain in Manama.

“That-s another great thing about having a professional club here in Wellington. As well as providing more opportunities for Australian players in the growing competition, as an All Whites group it-s allowed us to play top-level football together.

“I-m not sure we-d have got as close to qualifying for the World Cup as we have without the club in Wellington and I-m looking forward to continuing my career here.”