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Wellington Phoenix have signed a Bulgarian international with Champions League experience. Bozhidar Kraev, a 25-year-old attacking midfielder, has been confirmed as the club’s first new foreign signing ahead of the upcoming A-League Men season. Kraev has been capped 24 times by Bulgaria after making his international debut as a teenager in 2017. His most recent game for the national team came in a friendly against world champions France last August.

Kraev has been contracted to Danish Superliga club FC Midtjylland, Winston Reid’s old team, for the past five years, during which time he played against the likes of Liverpool and Ajax in the Champions League. He helped Midtjylland win the league and two domestic cup finals but his most fruitful season actually came when he was sent out on loan to Portuguese club Gil Vicente in 2019-20 and scored nine goals.

Kraev has signed a two-year deal with the Phoenix. He was put forward to the club by Sarpreet Singh’s agent and sought a recommendation from Aussie teammate Awer Mabil, who gave a glowing endorsement of the Phoenix and the A-League, before signing. The 1.86m-tall midfielder had offers to stay in Europe but said he had a “good feeling” about the Phoenix. He has been brought in to help fill the creative void created by Reno Piscopo’s departure to Newcastle Jets and the expiration of Mexican import Gael Sandoval’s loan deal.
He is the Phoenix’s fourth new signing after the previously-announced acquisitions of Kosta Barbarouses, Steven Ugarkovic and Lucas Mauragis. Kraev arrived in Wellington on Wednesday after making the long trip from Bulgaria and was due to train with his new team-mates for the first time on Friday. His involvement in the Phoenix’s first game, against Devonport Strikers in the Australia Cup on August 3, will be dependent on his visa being approved in time. Kraev will wear the No. 11 shirt previously worn by striker Jaushua Sotirio.