26 Aug 2015

Phoenix sign Sarpong

11:41 am on 26 August 2015

The Wellington Phoenix have signed a replacement striker for Nathan Burns, with former Ajax and Real Sociedad player Jeffrey Sarpong joining the club on a two-year deal.

The 27-year-old Sarpong joined the Ajax Academy as a seven-year-old and has played over 100 games in the Dutch first division with Ajax and NEC as well as spending three years in Spain's La Liga with Real Sociedad.

At Ajax Sarpong played alongside Phoenix midielder Roly Bonevacia and coach Ernie Merrick said that link had been beneficial in bringing Sarpong to Wellington.

Just like Burns when he arrived at the Phoenix, Sarpong has often been used as a wider player but Merrick is keen to turn him into a genuine striker.

Burns, who won the A-League Players' Player of the Year award, last season has now moved to Japanese club FC Tokyo.

Jeffrey Sarpong (left) playing for Ajax Amsterdam in the Dutch League

Jeffrey Sarpong (left) playing for Ajax Amsterdam in the Dutch League Photo: Supplied

"It has taken a while but it can take a while when you are after better players," Merrick said.

"We had some tough competition but we persisted and in the end got our man. It is always good when a regular member of your team is able to give you information on the person you are trying to sign," Merrick said.

"You are able to get an insight into the lad's character and what Roly had to say was excellent.

"On the football side Jeffery has pace and is a good one on one dribbler. Technically and tactically he is a good player who played 10 times for the Dutch under-21 side. He has just turned 27 so is at a good age and can get even better."

Sarpong said it wasn't an easy decision to move to the other side of the world but now that he had made it he was looking forward to living in Wellington with wife Stacey and 22-month-old daughter Zoe.

"I had a few options in Europe from good teams in good leagues...but the way the manager (Merrick) spoke swayed me. He knows how I play and knows areas I can improve in.

"I don't know much about the A-League apart from what Roly has told me.

"I have had a lot of conversations with Roly because we are good friends and he told me about the league and what the Phoenix club was like."

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