CHERRIES have taken an intriguing first step into the summer transfer market, snapping up goalkeeper Alex Paulsen, who has enjoyed a remarkable rise in the game.

Prior to the recently concluded season in Australia, Paulsen had made just six appearances for Wellington Phoenix, his first professional club.

But the departure of captain Oliver Sail last summer opened the door for Paulsen, an opportunity he grabbed with two hands.

The 21-year-old shone, courting interest from various Premier League clubs, after winning a host of awards for his performances in the A-League, Australia’s top flight.

But it is Cherries who have got the deal done, for an initial £850,000, potentially rising to £2million.

It is the highest fee Phoenix have ever received for a player, since their formation in 2007, Paulsen looking to become just the seventh New Zealander to play in the Premier League.

But just how has this rapid rise come about?

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To get more of an insight into Paulsen, we spoke to Auckland-based sports journalist Michael Burgess, who has been writing for the New Zealand Herald for almost 20 years and had the goalkeeper on his radar for a few years.

He told the Daily Echo: “I’ve seen him for a while because he played for the New Zealand under-17 team and he stood out.

“I remember him making some pretty important saves in a penalty shootout and you’re thinking ‘who is this kid?’.

“But when they’re 15 or 16, you never know how they’re going to turn out.

“We knew his potential, but no-one knew he was going to rise this fast, especially getting a deal like he has done, it’s just incredible.

“He got his full debut for the first team in January 2022, in a cup game, and he saved about three penalties in a penalty shootout and they went through to the next round. That was when everyone took notice of him.

“Then we didn’t really see him again much, because keepers get stuck behind the queue. This season has been a massive breakout.”

Burgess continued: “Phoenix’s keeper was also the captain and he left at the end of last season.

“Everyone was quite worried about what they would do - would they get someone in?

“No-one was thinking too much about Alex. They knew he had potential, but everyone was a bit worried, losing their captain and top keeper.

“Paulsen has come in and been incredible. He’s been part of the best defence in the A-League.

“They conceded 26 goals across the 27 game-season, which was quite remarkable. The best defensive record in the club’s history.

“And they had something crazy like -13 xG in terms of the goals they should have conceded.

“They finished second in the table, but they played a very conservative style.

“They gave up a lot of possession, so the defence was constantly under pressure, but Paulsen was so solid the whole time. Dominated his area, saved a couple of crucial penalties against very good players in this league.

“Over the season, he became one of the best players in the league. It’s been a really remarkable rise, I have to say.”

Paulsen’s performances earned him awards such as goalkeeper of the year and young footballer of the year in the A-League.

He was rewarded with a new contract at Wellington in November, tying him to the club until 2027.

But a few months on and he is making a huge move across to the other side of the world, to the Premier League.

And, as Burgess explains, the feeling was growing throughout the season that clubs may come sniffing around Paulsen in the summer.

“It’s come completely out the blue to think of a Premier League move,” he explained.

“That was not on the cards for anyone here.

“We haven’t had many players go to the Premier League at all. I think there’s been six Kiwis play in the Premier League since it started.

“He might take a few years to make it at Bournemouth, but just the fact he’s been noticed by a Premier League club is absolutely huge.

“Did we think he was going to move this summer? Possibly, but there was also a feeling that he might play one more season.

“If you look at amount of games he’s played, he’s only played 36 games and he’s only 21.

“There was a thought he might do one more season, but also there was a bit of a fear around the club that he’s playing so well, people are going to notice and that’s kind of what’s happened.”

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He added: “It’s been massive news here. On the scale of Premier League, it’s a very small deal, but big for New Zealand football.

“Since Phoenix started in 2007, I think they’ve had about 10 players leave for a transfer fee. They’ve had a player go to Holland, one go to Bayern Munich, so it happens. But this is the biggest fee by far. It’s a huge injection for the club.

“But it shows people what can happen.

“Alex was a normal kid, he went to high school in Auckland. He’s actually a very good cricketer too. He played cricket to a decent level as a bowler.

“Then moved to football and to Wellington to try and get into the Phoenix academy. So he had a pretty normal rise.

“He certainly wasn’t a superstar from a young age, so he will provide a lot of inspiration.

“People will be thinking, if this guy can do it, it’s possible for anyone.

“But also it’s a real boost for the Wellington Phoenix club, because they don’t make a lot of money throughout the season.

“So this amount of money will be massive to put back into the team and the academy. It’s probably a game-changer for the club I would’ve thought.”

Given how quickly Paulsen has risen to stardom and the fact he is moving so far away from home, is he the kind of character that will handle a move to Cherries well?

“I think relaxed is the word,” said Burgess.

“I remember talking to the Phoenix coach in January and he said the thing about Alex is he doesn’t get fazed by too much. He takes it all in his stride.

“In my dealings with him, I’ve found he’s quite a good mix.

“He’s a really confident guy and believes in himself, but so far he hasn’t also let the hype go to his head. He’s stayed pretty grounded.

“For example this season he was living in a flat with three other teammates the whole season. They were telling me he’s just one of the boys, so that’s pretty cool.

“The other thing that sticks in my head is he got called up for the New Zealand team, the All Whites, and they went to play Ireland in November in Dublin.

“It’s a huge flight, 20-odd hours with a stop in Dubai. He flies back, gets back about 24 hours before a game and he told me he was sitting in the middle row of the middle seat in economy class the whole way, the worst place to be!

“I said to him ‘what a pain’, but he said ‘you’ve just got to take it how it comes’. He was still buzzing the fact he’d been called up by New Zealand.

“In the game against Melbourne City he goes out 24 hours later, not a great build-up and he saved a penalty that night towards the end to win the game.

“He saved a penalty from a guy (Jason Maclaren) who has scored more penalties than anyone else in the history of the A-League.

“This was after a pretty less than ideal build-up for the game. People didn’t know if he’d play.

“That just summed up to me he’s a guy that doesn’t make excuses, puts everything aside and can just focus.”


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The Premier League carries global appeal, with millions watching matches across the world each weekend.

But just how well-known are AFC Bournemouth in New Zealand?

“I remember when Chris Wood went to Burnley in 2017 and not many of us had heard of Burnley, outside of people who really followed football,” explained Burgess.

“Within a few years, there was something like three or four Burnley fan clubs in New Zealand.

“It was quite funny. There was one in Auckland, one in Wellington, one in Christchurch and everyone started watching Burnley.

“You’d see some Burnley shirts when you would walk around the street.

“That an example of how the awareness can change.

“With Bournemouth, they haven’t been that well-known outside people that really follow football.

“But they certainly have in the last six months or so, since (Bill) Foley arrived (at Auckland FC) and they’ve been talked about a lot, because everyone is quite intrigued about how they could be involved.

“I’d say the Cherries will become certainly more and more visible around here.”