No upcoming games
Future matches are yet to be scheduled
No upcoming games
Future matches are yet to be scheduled

Please update your browser

Unfortunately you cannot view this website on the current version of your browser. Please either update your browser or use an alternative browser.

Mar 18, 2008   |  10:40PM AET

Gao back on crusade with Phoenix

Gao back on crusade with Phoenix

CHINESE footballer Leilei Gao is back on the Hyundai A-League crusade after signing a one-year deal with Wellington Phoenix FC for the 2008/09 season.

The former New Zealand Knights attacking midfielder was instrumental in the Auckland-based club-s fine run toward the end of the Hyundai A-League 2006/07 season.

With Phoenix head coach Ricki Herbert installed as caretaker coach of the ill-fated club in December 2006, the Knights played five matches – winning three, drawing one and losing one.

Gao played seven matches in the Hyundai A-League 2006/07 season after being loaned short-term to the Knights by Beijing Guoan. He scored a goal in just his second match for the club, against Adelaide United.

When the Knights folded, the 27-year-old joined Finnish Premier Division club MyPa and was the first Chinese footballer to play in the Veikkausliiga.

Phoenix chief executive Tony Pignata said Gao had been a target of Herbert for the club-s debut season in the Hyundai A-League.

“Ricki-s a big fan of Leilei, having worked with him at the Knights, and he was keen to sign him up for season one. Unfortunately the circumstances weren-t right at the time.

“So when the opportunity came up for us to sign him for our second season, we jumped at it.

“Leilei will be a huge asset in the midfield. He-s going to give us the extra speed we need and he-s also a dead-ball specialist. He-s the sort of creative, attacking link-man we-ve been looking for. ”

Gao said he was excited about coming to Wellington.

“I really enjoyed my time in New Zealand, particularly playing for Ricki. The Phoenix are going really well and I-m looking forward to being part of a big season for the club.”

Gao joins fellow midfielder Leo Bertos and defenders Andrew Durante and Jon McKain as new signings for the Phoenix for the 2008/09 season.

Meanwhile, the Phoenix are continuing their search for a specialist right back and a strike partner for prolific season one scorer Shane Smeltz.

Pignata said the club had identified a number of players in both positions that could fit the bill.

“We-ve got some options, so it-s a case of sitting down and working through those.”

Date of birth: July 15, 1980 in Beijing, China (27 years)
Height, weight: 1.80m, 75kg
Playing position: Midfielder

Club history: 2007 MyPa (Finland), 2006/07 New Zealand Knights (loan), 1999-2006 Beijing Guoan

Hyundai A-League statistics: Seven matches (one goal) for New Zealand Knights (debut v Newcastle Jets, North Harbour Stadium, December 3, 2006).

Biography: An attacking midfielder, Gao has the ability to create and score goals. Gao first came to prominence in the Chinese Jia A and was a regular starter for Beijing Guoan for seven seasons. He was loaned to the now-defunct New Zealand Knights in December 2006. Despite efforts by the Phoenix to sign Gao for the Hyundai A-League 2007/08 season, he joined MyPa in the Finnish Premier Division and was the first Chinese player to play in the Finnish Veikkausliiga.