Former Real player joins Nix
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.