Phoenix to sign European pair


Wellington Phoenix are in negotiations with Dutch striker Maceo Rigters and Spaniard Dani Sanchez and hope to have the pair on board by the end of the week.

Rigters scored the Phoenix’s only goal in their A-League pre-season loss to Brisbane Roar at the weekend just hours after arriving in the country from Britain.

Sanchez, an attacking midfielder, has been with the club for several weeks now after choosing to stay on when his initial trial period was disrupted by a torn quad muscle.

That decision to stay and fight for a contract has clearly impressed Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert.

“He had a bad injury and he could have left but he elected to stay on of his own accord and his dedication and passion of wanting to be part of the Wellington Phoenix has been huge,” Herbert said.

“I think slowly his performances are aligning themselves with a contract opportunity. We’d be pleased to have him. He could have left but he wanted to be part of this club. He’s done everything possible to make that happen.”

Herbert also made no secret of the fact they are keen to add Rigters, a former Blackburn Rovers team-mate of New Zealand captain Ryan Nelsen, to their striker stocks and hope to have a deal wrapped up by the end of the week.

“We’d be delighted to have his services at the club. We’ve made that very clear to his manager. I think we will speak a little more as the week progresses,” said the Wellington coach.

“He’s probably a four-to-six week proposition in getting him to a level where we need to get him at physiologically.”

“But the potential and talent that we’ve seen and the character of the boy as well – he’s fitted in nicely and he’s been great around the group – I think he would be a fantastic acquisition.”

Both players have certainly made positive noises about the club, although both admitted to knowing little about the A-League before heading to Wellington to trial.

“Honestly I didn’t know too much before coming but I read about the league and where I am coming. I”m really happy. I think the standard is really good,” said Sanchez.

“From the first day all the boys have helped me. I’m happy to stay here and think I will probably sign soon.”

Rigters added: “It’s a nice team. I haven-t trained with the boys much but it’s a nice group.”

“We lost against Brisbane but you can see that’s not how it is going to be all season.”

Herbert confirmed another triallist Billy Mehmet had left the club after failing to gain a contract.

But he will get another look at young defender Bryan Bran in Friday’s pre-season game against Melbourne Heart in Shepparton.

Bran, playing for Oakleigh Cannons in the Victoria Premier League, had a trial in Wellington last month and is in line for one of three under-21 spots still up for grabs.

Brisbane Strikers’ forward Matt Thurtell and New Zealand midfielder Cory Chettleburgh are also still at the club and remain a possibility for under-21 contracts, but only Thurtell will travel to Australia.

“They are certainly in the frame and they’ve been here and part of the group for a while now,” said Herbert of their prospects.

“But there’s still a decision to make on that. I wouldn’t say they are certainties by any stretch. But they are here and they are better off being in the environment that not being here.”