Rufer earns Phoenix contract

The teenager impressed enough during a brief stint to warrant being offered professional terms, following in the footsteps of his famous family members

Wellington Phoenix have signed forward Alex Rufer, the 17-year-old nephew of former New Zealand international Wynton Rufer.

Rufer has signed a three-year professional contract with the A-League club after impressing new coach Ernie Merrick during a trial.

Capable of playing as an attacking midfielder or a striker, Rufer has excellent football pedigree; uncle Wynton won major honours with Werder Bremen in the 1980s and 1990s, and fired the All Whites to their first appearance at the FIFA World Cup finals in 1982. He also played in Switzerland and Japan during his impressive career.

Alex's father Shane Rufer also represented the All Whites, earning eight international caps during a playing career which, like his brother, took him to Switzerland.

"I am absolutely stoked," Alex Rufer said.

"I was over the moon when Ernie told me what was happening.

"Everything has happened so quickly it is hard to take it all in.

"I found it difficult to keep quiet while we were sorting the contract out. I wanted to tell everyone I was going to be a professional footballer."

According to Merrick, signing Rufer is the latest step in his plan to revitalise an ageing Phoenix squad, and the coach expects him to be pushing for selection in 2013-14.

"It is good management to ensure you have a blend of experienced players who can cope with the rigours of professional football," he said.

"The Phoenix is a work in progress and it is not going to happen overnight, but I wouldn't have given him a contract if I didn't think he could play now.

"I already see him as a contender to play in the A-League, so it was important I bring him in now to work on his technical and tactical development, and of course he will develop physically under the programme."

Merrick has also brought in defender Reece Caira and forward Kenny Cunningham and he will be able to call on the services of playmaker Carlos Hernandez, who agreed to join Phoenix in February, but had to see out his previous contract with Indian club Prayag United.

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