Ex-Socceroo Elrich signs with Phoenix
Fledgling A-League franchise the Wellington Phoenix confirmed on Friday they had signed former Socceroo Ahmad Elrich as the club's marquee player.
The final piece of the jigsaw has fallen into place for Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert with Elrich, the 23rd and final signing for the club, expected to make his debut in next weekend's home game against Perth Glory.
Under A-League rules, teams are allowed one player who falls outside the salary cap.
Herbert told a media conference in Wellington on Friday Elrich, 26, was exactly the kind of player the Phoenix were keeping the spot open for.
"He's a great age and a great guy. He'll fit in with what we have started here," Herbert said.
Elrich, a right-side attacking midfielder, has played 12 times for the Socceroos and scored five goals.
He spent the last three years on the books of English Premiership side Fulham, but picked up some niggly injuries and only managed a handful of competitive starts.
Herbert was in no doubt Elrich would make a difference to the Phoenix, who are fifth on the A-League table after last weekend's 2-1 win over Sydney FC, their first of the season.
"I just see similarities in his character, qualities and whole spirit to what we're doing," the coach said.
Herbert and club owner Terry Serepisos met Elrich in Sydney last week to discuss a deal.
Sydney FC and league-leaders Central Coast were also keen to snap him up but Sydney-born Elrich said Wellington's was the only offer he seriously considered.
"There was a lot of talk about Sydney and Central Coast but I never met with them," he said.
Instead, Elrich said he was impressed by the Phoenix's attitude and plans.
"Ricki's a big factor in me coming here."
Elrich said being back in the Australian league was a good chance to play his way back into the Socceroos after missing last year's World Cup and the recent Asian Cup.
"Ricki has the experience to get me back to the national team," he said, citing Herbert's record with the All Whites.
Elrich said he was looking forward to linking up with the team's maturing midfield.
"There's a lot of ball players here. Hopefully they can put me through when I get in behind.
"That's very much an attraction."