Why Bozhidar Kraev is the best signing the A-League Men has ever seen

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It’s a big claim, but Wellington Phoenix attacker Bozhidar Kraev is loving life in the A-League Men. Despite several top-talented players coming through the league, they don’t match Kraev. These are the reasons why the Bulgarian international is the best the A-League Men has seen. 

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1. His presence

Even when he hasn’t scored this season, which is a rarity, Kraev has made sure his presence is know. He stands at six feet two inches tall and weighs 80kg. He’s a physical player who uses his height to his advantage. 

It’s a frustration for defenders as he is able to pounce on any mistakes they make. While he’s not the pressing kind of player, Kraev is always there to make the necessary tackle and makes life hard for defenders to get past him. 

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2. His playing style

Every player has their own playing style, whether they like to sit back and allow the opposition player to come forward, or whether they like to press forward whenever the opposition player receives the ball.

While Kraev enjoys not putting immediate pressure on the opposition player, he does like to immediately attack with the ball as soon as he receives it. With his height and his strength, it allows him to be pacy on the attack. With a great boot as well, it gives him opportunities to be a worry for oppositions backlines and their keepers for whom he seems to be thriving on at the minute. 

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3. The statistics

Statistics are so key in football, especially when it comes to talking up a player. They are able to back up the exact points you are trying to make.

Looking at Kraev statistics, he’s not a natural goal scorer. The position he plays is not the goal scoring kind of player, but is instead there to assist the forwards and help on the attack.

Wellington Phoenix have changed that though, it seems like head coach Ufuk Talay wants Kraev to be the man finishing the chances created by the team.

Having played in all eight A-League Men games so far with only one of the games as a substitute, the Bulgarian has scored five goals with a goal in each of the last four games. He’s only the sixth Phoenix player to do that. Kraev also scored on his Nix debut in the Australia Cup.

With no assists this season to date, it shows that Talay has developed Kraev into a natural goal scorer rather than an assist creator and it’s been working. 

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4. His career

Players in world football do move around a bit and while the A-League Men has players who have done that, Kraev has had quite the journey. 

At the start of 2013, he joined Bulgarian side Levski Sofia’s academy at age 15. A year later, it was a big year for Kraev. He made his senior team debut off the bench in a league game, he was named by The Guardian as one of the top forty most promising young players in the world, he signed his first professional contract, and he went on trial with Italian giants Juventus and English Premier League side Manchester City. 

Three years later he joined Danish side FC Midtjylland where he won the league title in his first season. Despite moving back and forward between Denmark and Portugal, where he spent a few seasons on loan, not many A-League Men’s players say they have played in the UEFA Champions League. The Bulgarian international has done just that, playing in the COVID-affected 2020/21 season where FC Midtjylland played the likes of Liverpool and Ajax. 

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Having joined Wellington Phoenix in July 2022 on a free transfer, Kraev is only 25 and is on a two-year deal. With Talay securing him for at least two A-League Men campaigns and with Kraev’s current form, it shows the message the Phoenix are wanting to send to their competitors. There is still plenty of time in Kraev’s career and with the way he has been playing, he has a massive chance of setting the world alight with the Nix presenting him a great chance to put his name back on the world map.  

Featured image credit: Photomac 

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Nick Jensen
Nick Jensen
Journalism Student at Massey University Wellington and a passionate Football Fan, covering the Wellington Phoenix Men and Women for the 2022/23 season.

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