Experienced A-League stalwart and Iraqi international Ali Abbas has joined Wellington Phoenix as Darije Kalezic concludes his off-season squad overhaul.
Wellington Phoenix are delighted to announce the signing of Iraqi international and Asian Cup winner Ali Abbas on a two-year contract.
A veteran of 128 A-League games over seven seasons with Sydney FC and Newcastle Abbas’ last stint was in the K-League in Korea, and brings further experience to the squad having competed in the Asian Champion’s League and most memorably as part of Iraq’s fairytale 2007 Asian Cup campaign.
A technically gifted player, it is Abbas’ versatility that excited assistant coach Rado Vidosic, with the thirty-year-old providing crucial depth and competition in three positions.
“Ali provides us with a lot of experience from the A-League, Asian Champion’s League and overseas,” said Vidosic, “as a left-footed player he also brings a lot of balance to the team and also competition on the left-handed side – at fullback, as a midfielder and a winger.”
For Head Coach Darije Kalezic the signing of Abbas not just brings Phoenix’s off-season recruitment to a close but also highlights the willingness of top-tier Australian talent to buy into the coaching staff’s project of rejuvenation.
“With the signing of Ali we have completed our playing roster,” said Kalezic, “and I am very happy with the group that we have recruited but also the players that we have retained.”
“It hasn’t always been possible in the past to attract top-quality Australian players to join us here at Wellington – that has changed. I am happy that Ali chose to join us, I am happy that fans can see this season [Galloway, Mullen, Vidosic and Abbas] join our club.”
For Abbas, an Australian citizen, a return to the A-League is also a homecoming after a disappointing period in Korea.
“After Korea there were many offers, a lot from home in Iraq, but I wanted to come back to the A-League,” said Abbas. “Phoenix have many quality players, they’ve recruited well – I want to do something special this year.”
“At Sydney I worked with Rado, he’s very tactical, and structured, he makes you understand the roles you play, so the chance to work again with him, and of course to learn from Darije, was very exciting.”
As to what position he thinks he will play, Abbas is happy to leave that to the coaches.
“I don’t have a preference, I can play whatever position they chose – for me, I am happy as long as I’m on the pitch.
I’m really happy to be here, we have a really good squad. I just want to do my best, and to show the fans of Wellington that I deserve to keep playing at a high level, and hopefully it’s a long stay.”
Abbas will join the squad initially as an injury-replacement for Louis Fenton. The young full-back has had a horrific run with injury and will be assisted by the club in finding regular game-time elsewhere once he has regained full fitness.
As a local boy the club holds Fenton in high regard and has shown faith in his long-term potential, with a new one-year contract in place from September 2018.
Abbas arrived in Wellington on Monday and having successfully passed a medical has already begun training with the team.
Wellington Phoenix squad – A-League season 2017/2018
Goalkeepers: Lewis Italiano, Oliver Sail
Defenders: Andrew Durante, Marco Rossi, Scott Galloway, Tom Doyle, Daniel Mullen, Ryan Lowry, Dylan Fox, Ali Abbas (injury replacement)
Midfielders: Gui Finkler, Michael McGlinchey, Goran Paracki, Matthew Ridenton, Alex Rufer, James McGarry, Sarpreet Singh
Forwards: Andrija Kaludjerovic, Dario Vidosic, Roy Krishna, Hamish Watson, Adam Parkhouse, Logan Rogerson
Injured: Louis Fenton