Soccer: Phoenix sign Belgian striker

New Wellington Phoenix signing Stein Huysegems with coach Ricki Herbert. Photo / Guy Smith / Yellow Fever.
New Wellington Phoenix signing Stein Huysegems with coach Ricki Herbert. Photo / Guy Smith / Yellow Fever.

The Wellington Phoenix have signed Belgium striker Stein Huysegems for the upcoming A-League season.

With 15 international appearances to his name, and having played regularly in the top divisions of both Belgium and Holland as well as appearing in the Champions League and Europa League, Huysegems is being touted as the most highly-rated overseas player to join the Phoenix.

Coach Ricki Herbert said he was delighted to have secured the services of someone who has never played below the highest level in both Belgium and the Netherlands.

His height -1.86m - will see him operate through the middle and the club will hope his size will fit in well with wider running options like Paul Ifill and Jeremy Brockie.

"We searched long and hard to find someone who fitted the criteria of the club and I'm delighted we were able to get the deal over the line,'' Herbert said.

"Like most A-League clubs, we aren't in a position to lure the likes of [former Italy striker Alessandro] Del Piero [who has signed for Sydney FC] but, when you look at Stein's background in the Dutch and Belgian first divisions, along with his 15 international caps, I think we've signed a player whose experience and ability to score goals will add a lot to the team.

"You don't play for clubs such as Feyenoord, AZ and FC Twente unless you have ability.

"Stein had other opportunities in Europe so it is really pleasing that he chose to come to Wellington with his family.

"I feel he will fit in here perfectly. At 6ft 1in, he has a good presence and will add a different dimension to the side.

"His European experience, playing against the likes of Arsenal and Manchester City, will also stand him in good stead in the A-League.''

Huysegems, 30, began his professional career in Belgium with Lierse, where he scored 32 goals in 117 appearances, before moving to AZ in Holland where he spent three years. Spells with FC Twente, Racing Genk and Roda JC, on loan, followed.

Huysegems had options in Europe, especially in the Ukraine, but spent only one day in that country before deciding it wasn't for him.

"I took one look and thought, `this is no good for my family','' he said. ``It wasn't a hard choice to come to Wellington and the A League.

"I've heard good things about the A League and contacted Archie Thompson who I played with for Lierse in Belgium. Archie said if I had the chance to join Wellington to take it.

"I've read good things about Wellington on the internet and my first impressions are good.''

Huysegems made the journey on his own but will soon be joined by wife Natalie and daughter Roose, 5, and son Lex, 2.

- APNZ

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