Phoenix sign A-League star Hernandez

NEW APPOINTMENT: Former Melbourne Victory star Carlos Hernandez has been signed to the Wellington Phoenix.
NEW APPOINTMENT: Former Melbourne Victory star Carlos Hernandez has been signed to the Wellington Phoenix.

The Wellington Phoenix have pulled off a recruitment coup by signing former A-League MVP Carlos Hernandez on a two-year contract.

The Costa Rican playmaker won't be able to help address the club's struggles this season but will join the Phoenix in June when his contract with Indian club Prayag United expires.

Hernandez, 30, won the Johnny Warren Medal in 2010 and scored 40 goals in 138 games for the Melbourne Victory.

It is arguably coach Ricki Herbert's biggest signing in his six years with the club.

"Getting Carlos to Wellington is a massive signing for the Phoenix because everyone has seen the impact he made in the A-League," Herbert said.

"He is an exciting player who can make things very difficult for the opposition and is a dead ball specialist. It was important that when a player of Carlos' ability became available that the club should try and get him here. 

"It signals the direction the club is taking and Carlos fits perfect with our strategy. I've always had a good relationship with Carlos and from the first call I made to him our talks were positive. The fact that he has been A-League player of the year says it all as that is voted on by his peers."

At times during Hernandez's Victory career there were concerns about his fitness but if he turns up to Wellington in shape there is no doubt he has the ability to take the Phoenix's midfield play to another level next season.

Phoenix goalkeeper Glen Moss admits he was ''surprised'' Carlos Hernandez chose to sign for Wellington for the next two A-League seasons.

Moss and Hernandez were Melbourne Victory team-mates during their outstanding 2009-10 campaign.

He said the Phoenix were not only getting a ''fantastic player'' but also a ''great guy.''

''He's an amazing signing really, one I didn't think we'd get, so more than happy to have Carlos on our team,'' said Moss after Phoenix training today.

''I'm surprised that we got him. A player like that has a lot of options so for him to choose Wellington is hopefully saying [something] about where the club's going in the future.''

Hernandez, a 30-year-old Costa Rica international, will join the Phoenix for pre-season training in June.

He is contracted to Indian club Prayag United but is currently in Costa Rica mourning the death of his father.

Hernandez won the Johnny Warren Medal as the league's best player in 2009-10 and scored 40 goals in 138 games for the Victory.

''Carlos is a great guy and everyone knows he's a fantastic player,'' Moss said.

''Just a really bubbly, confident character. I guess like a lot of foreigners he's really passionate about the game and that's contagious. So you'd rather guys like that around the game than the negative ones.''

Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert said Hernandez had not been signed as a marquee player and his contract would fit under the salary cap.

Herbert also revealed Moss would replace Mark Paston and make his first start of the season against the Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday.

Herbert said Ben Sigmund, Leo Bertos and Tony Lochhead would also return to the starting XI after missing the embarrassing 5-0 loss against Central Coast.

And young Australian striker Corey Gameiro - on loan from English Premier League club Fulham - would start in place of the suspended Jeremy Brockie.

Contact Sam Worthington
Sports reporter

The Dominion Post