Costa Rica international joins the Nix

The Wellington Phoenix have added another proven winner to the men’s squad to help the club’s push for a maiden A-League title.

The Phoenix have signed midfielder Youstin Salas on loan from Costa Rican champions Deportivo Saprissa for the remainder of the 2023-24 Isuzu UTE A-League.

Salas, 27, has played seven times for the Costa Rica national team, including two appearances at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

He wants to lead the Phoenix to their first A-League championship.

“I come from being a three-time champion with Saprissa and I want to be a champion also with Wellington Phoenix,” Salas said. “That is my mentality.

“I can contribute a lot to the team. I consider myself a fast, technical footballer that gives his all in training and in matches.

“Despite my height (1.73m) I am good aerially and tactically I am diligent.

“I am going to give my best effort and contribute as much as I can to the team.”

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – JANUARY 30: Youstin Salas of Costa Rica drives the ball during the match between Mexico and Costa Rica as part of the Concacaf 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier at Azteca Stadium on January 30, 2022 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)

Salas is looking forward to playing abroad and becoming the third Tico (Costa Rican) to play for the Phoenix after Kenny Cunningham and Carlos Hernandez.

“For a long time I have been waiting for such an opportunity to play outside my country.

“I want to be able to give my family a better quality of life.

“I know that several Ticos have played in the A-League and a couple of them have played for the Phoenix.

“It is a very good and very competitive league and Wellington is a nice place.”

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – OCTOBER 13: Coach Giancarlo Italiano talks to his players during the Wellington Phoenix A-League Mens training session at NZCIS on October 13, 2023 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Phoenix head coach Giancarlo Italiano believes Youstin Salas has the mentality his team needs.

“When I spoke to him his first goal was that he wants us to win the championship,” Italiano said. “That was the first thing he said to me, and I like that.

“He wants to win something and create something special for the club.

“That’s the sort of player I want in the team, someone who’s here to make us better.”

And he believes Salas has “all the qualities that will make the team stronger”.

“He’s a player with high amounts of energy, he’s technically very sound and he’s a winner by nature.

“Youstin’s a very decorated player. He’s won a lot of trophies.

“And importantly he can fill in across a number of positions.

“He has world cup appearances as a right back, but he mostly plays as a six and he can fill in as a 10 if needed.”

AL KHOR, QATAR – DECEMBER 01: Jamal Musiala of Germany is challenged by Youstin Salas of Costa Rica during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group E match between Costa Rica and Germany at Al Bayt Stadium on December 01, 2022 in Al Khor, Qatar. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Giancarlo Italiano has been tracking Salas since he was appointed head coach and has thanked the Phoenix board for the extra investment to make the loan move a reality.

“They’ve seen the work the team has done. We have a very good solid base of players playing exceedingly well.

“They also see we need some depth in the second half of the season not only in terms of the starting team but also players coming off the bench, and Youstin gives us an extra injection of quality.

“It’s a great time to bring him in. It helps us with depth and he will complement the whole group.”

Phoenix general manager David Dome says the mid-season move shows the belief the board has in the men’s team this season.

“The owners have decided to dip further into their pockets and extend the men’s squad budget to make this signing,” Dome said.

“They believe the team can achieve something special this season and want to give Chiefy the best chance to bring the A-League trophy back to Wellington.

“The team and the board can’t do it alone however. We now need the fans to get behind the Phoenix like they did in our last home game against Melbourne Victory earlier this month.”

Youstin Salas will join the squad in Wellington as soon as his work visa is approved.