For­mer Real player joins Nix

The Southland Times - - Sport - Liam Hys­lop

Mark Ru­dan has found him­self a fighter in Span­ish de­fen­sive mid­fielder Mandi.

The Welling­ton Phoenix coach places a lot of em­pha­sis on the char­ac­ter of his play­ers, and saw a lot to like in 29-year-old, whose full name is Ar­mando Sosa Pena, in­clud­ing his her­itage.

‘‘I’m big on know­ing the his­tory of the play­ers. He’s from Las Pal­mas, and when I heard about Las Pal­mas, they’re fight­ers. They have had to fight for cen­turies. Their blood­line is like that, so when I knew he was from there I thought OK I’ll ask a cou­ple of ques­tions and test him on that,’’ Ru­dan said.

‘‘From what I’ve seen on the pitch, he’s what I thought and ex­pected of some­one from that area.’’

Mandi has played more than 200 games across the sec­ond and third di­vi­sions of Span­ish foot­ball.

He spent time in Real Madrid’s re­serve team from 2010 to 2012. In the 2011-12 sea­son he played 30 games along­side the likes of cur­rent Real Madrid play­ers Lu­cas Vazquez and Dani Car­va­jal, Chelsea striker Al­varo Mo­rata and Rus­sian World Cup star De­nis Ch­ery­shev.

His most re­cent club was sec­ond divi­sion team Alme­ria, where he played 23 games be­fore suf­fer­ing a tear in his Achilles ten­don in a match against Osasuna in Fe­bru­ary.

He has been tri­alling with the club since their tour of Syd­ney in late Septem­ber, with Ru­dan confident he was well and truly over the in­jury.

His on-field pres­ence came to the fore in their 3-1 win over Mel­bourne Vic­tory last week in a be­hind­closed-doors friendly.

The Phoenix were in the mar­ket for an­other hold­ing mid­fielder to play along­side Poland’s Michal Kopczyn­ski.

The only other player in the squad who can re­al­is­ti­cally play there is Alex Rufer, who Ru­dan said also im­pressed against Vic­tory when Kopczyn­ski was out through in­jury.

Mandi’s sign­ing came a day af­ter Aus­tralian at­tack­ing mid­fielder Max Burgess, who sur­prised ev­ery­one by play­ing the role of trans­la­tor yes­ter­day with flu­ent Span­ish.

Mandi said, via Burgess, he was ex­cited to get back into foot­ball with the Phoenix.

‘‘Ini­tially I hadn’t heard of Welling­ton, but now that I have been here I’m lov­ing the vibe, lov­ing work­ing with Mark and the club. I feel like it is a big fam­ily.

‘‘You’ll see when I play, but I’m a player with a lot of char­ac­ter, I’m a win­ner, when I’m at 100 per cent fit­ness I have the phys­i­cal­ity to win du­els and I’m some­one that likes to sup­port my team-mates and link up with the play.’’

Mandi takes the last im­port spot for the Phoenix, for now. It is hoped a de­ci­sion from the Depart­ment of In­ter­nal Af­fairs will be made be­fore the end of the year about Fi­jian Roy Kr­ishna’s ap­pli­ca­tion for New Zealand cit­i­zen­ship. If he is suc­cess­ful, then the Phoenix could bring in an­other im­port in Jan­uary.

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