Phoenix sign youth star

Wellington Phoenix FC coach Ricki Herbert’s promise to have young, talented New Zealand players at the Hyundai A-League club was delivered on Friday with the signing of 17-year-old Costa Barbarouses.

Barbarouses, from Wellington, has signed with Phoenix for three years. He brings the number of players at the new club to six following the announcement on Tuesday that Ross Aloisi, Mark Paston, Tim Brown, Richard Johnson and Michael Ferrante had signed on.

Barbarouses, who attends St Patrick’s College in Kilbirnie, Wellington, has already represented New Zealand at Under-15 and Under-17 level.

In March, Barbarouses scored five goals in three games for the Under-17 side as it qualified for the FIFA World Cup in Korea in August after finishing top of the Oceania qualifying tournament.

The striker played for Team Wellington in the New Zealand Football Championship under coach Mick Waitt, where he impressed. He also plays club football with Wellington Olympic.

Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert said Barbarouses’ signature was important not only for securing his playing abilities, but to reinforce the club’s commitment to developing young New Zealand talent.

“Costa is an outstanding prospect. He has pace, vision and knows when to hone in on goal. The role of striker is vital in any team, and Costa brings a natural sense for knowing how to find the back of the net.

“Mick Waitt’s involvement in Costa’s development has been significant. His guidance in giving someone as young as Costa playing time in our domestic showpiece has been superb.

“It backs up how the New Zealand football structure, and pathway provided by the age-group system, works. Costa is a shining example of that.”

Herbert also paid tribute to national under-17 coach Colin Tuaa for Barbarouses’ development.

“Colin has been integral in Costa’s development, giving him the necessary skills to take the next step up in his game which will be at a professional level.”

For Barbarouses, signing with Phoenix caps off a perfect week after his favourite English club side, Liverpool, reached the final of the Champions League.

“One of my goals was to play professional football, and that’s arrived with Phoenix. The other is to play for the All Whites and I’m working hard on that.

“I’m excited at the opportunity of being able to play with experienced professionals and learning from them. Having Ricki as coach is also going to be a great help.”

Herbert expects more signings will be announced by week’s end.