Wellington Phoenix sign Albert Riera

Wellington have added to their midfield stocks just days out from the season, bringing in Albert Riera from the local New Zealand league.
The Wellington Phoenix have signed Spanish midfielder Albert Riera from Auckland City on a one-year deal.

Riera has been a part of two FIFA Club World Cups with Auckland City, while he was also a Chatham Cup winner with club team Central United in 2012.

The Spaniard is also a two-time winner of the fourth-tier Tercera Division in Spain.

He has gained many plaudits amongst his Auckland City teammates, winning the players' player of the year, sportsman of the year and the overall player of the year honours at the club's annual sports awards earlier this year.

The 29-year-old impressed new Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick during the A-League side's 0-1 loss to the ASB Premiership side in one of their pre-season matches.

Previously a semi-professional footballer in Spain, Riera's rise to professional football is a far cry from his original intentions for moving to New Zealand three years ago.

"In Spain I was a paramedic and played semi-professional football," Riera said.

"It was hard work fitting in my job and training and it got to the point where I felt I needed a break. I decided to take a year off and do some travelling with friends.

"That was how I ended up in Auckland and now I am a professional footballer- how good is that?'

Merrick said Riera's class in the defeat was obvious, and while he had heard whispers about the Spaniard it was important for him to witness his ability in a game-type situation.

"He is a ball winner and his passing is first class. He rarely gives the ball away and he will bring composure and on-field maturity to an important position," said Merrick.

"I had been looking for someone like Albert for a while because the modern game puts high physical demands on players, especially in midfield."

Riera will provide Merrick with cover in midfield, something Merrick said was 'vital' given his side's international-laden side that would be called upon for the upcoming intercontinental playoff in November.

The Spaniard has been impressed with Merrick's vision and hopes to fulfil the Scot's vision this season.

"When I spoke to Ernie and got to training I understood what he wants from me and I want the same things. I like the way he wants to play and know I can fit in with the team."

The Wellington Phoenix's opening match of the season  takes place at Westpac Stadium on Sunday when they tackle the Roar.