Bulgarian international joins on two-year deal

The Wellington Phoenix have added international quality to the men’s squad for the next couple of Isuzu UTE A-League seasons.

The Phoenix have signed Bulgarian attacking midfielder Bozhidar Kraev on a two-year contract.

Kraev, 25, has played 24 senior internationals for his country since making his debut as a 19-year-old in March 2017.

He most recently represented Bulgaria in an international friendly against world champions France in August last year.

Kraev has been contracted to Danish giants FC Midtjylland for the past five seasons, during which time he played against the likes of Liverpool and Ajax in the Champions League.

“The offer from the Phoenix interested me,” Kraev said. “I had a couple of other options but I had a good feeling about this.

“The A-League is growing and getting popular and I wanted to be a part of it.”

He is hoping to “bring something different” to the Nix, after a frustrating final season in Denmark.

“I’m a creative player and my role is to score and assist goals.

“I want to play the maximum amount of games and help the Phoenix to the highest possible position in the league.”

Head coach Ufuk Talay says Kraev has a number of good attributes.

“He’s young which is a positive,” Talay said. “He’s 25 which I think is a good age.  

“He’s also energetic and when I spoke to him on the phone about making the move he was excited to come to New Zealand and play in the A-League.”

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – JULY 22: Coach Ufuk Talay hands new signing Bozhidar Kraev a Phoenix shirt during a Wellington Phoenix A-League media opportunity at Martin Luckie Park on July 22, 2022 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Talay says Kraev is “a little bit different to the 10s we’ve previously signed”.

“He’s a lot bigger. At 186cms tall he’s a good size. He’s strong on the ball and deceptively quick for his height.

“But he’s still technically good on the ball and he can score goals.”

Kraev found the back of the net nine times during the 2019/20 season while on loan at Gil Vicente FC in Portugal’s Primeira Liga.

“Hopefully he can score and assist goals for us too,” Talay said.

“He’s a natural 10 and with the attributes he has I think he’ll fit in pretty well to the way we set up.”

The men have now signed 19 players for the upcoming A-League season, with the club to announce a further two or three additions over the coming months.

Bozhidar Kraev arrived in Wellington on Wednesday after a long journey from Bulgaria and will soon join the team for pre-season training.

He will wear the no. 11 shirt for the Phoenix this season.