Like many of his teammates in Wellington Phoenix, Mexican star Ulises Dávila had offers to play elsewhere after his outstanding A-League season last year.
However, when his agent notified him of the overseas interest at the end of the 2019-20 campaign, Dávila made it clear that he intended to return to Phoenix to see the final year of his contract.
He said he felt obliged to Ufuk Talay for attacking him when other coaches failed to do so after failing to set the Indian Super League on fire with Delhi Dynamos during a brief period.
« When all these things came up, I said to Uffie, » Uffie, if you want me back I’ll do anything to go back. « . My family is happy there and I am happy there. Of course you always listen to these things, but in my eyes it was always to go back to the phoenix, ”said Dávila.
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« Uffie trusted me when others may not have. He gave me that confidence so I said I really want to get my contract out and respect my contract, and when I finish my contract we’ll see what’s next, but on my mind it was always to get the contract out and back to come to finish the job. ”
After the Mercurial Dávila stayed with the club, he was named Phoenix captain for 2020-21. Though surprised by Talay’s decision, the 29-year-old said he was honored to follow Steven Taylor as skipper.
He will soon be joined by his wife and son, currently in New Zealand serving in managed isolation for two weeks before heading to Australia, which should give him a boost too.
« It’s very important to be with them because my boy is only nine months old and I’ve been away from him for four months or more. It’s tough. I also love football, but I definitely want my family here so we can enjoy this beautiful country like we did in New Zealand. ”
Dávila scored 12 goals for the Phoenix last season, making it the most productive period of his professional career. However, looking ahead to the new campaign, he said he wanted more assists and was looking forward to working with new striker Tomer Hemed – a player he believed had the potential to make a huge impact.
The Israel international joined the Phoenix after a season with English championship club Charlton Athletic but previously played for Brighton and Hove Albion, helping them advance to the Premier League before making 16 top division appearances.
Dávila said the pair had already established a connection off the field as Hemed speaks Spanish after living in Spain for five years between 2011 and 2015 when he played for La Liga clubs Mallorca and Almería.
« He’s a great guy. He speaks Spanish so it’s easy for me. We talked a lot and have a good friendship. I told him: « Tomer, you have to score a lot of goals. « . But I think he’s a top player, he proved it and he’ll be great for us, ”said Dávila.
« He is happy to be here and has the same ambition as everyone else. He has the ambition to make an impact and to be one of the best players in the league and certainly the top goalscorer. We are happy to have him here. ”
Despite the off-season loss of Taylor, Liberato Cacace, Gary Hooper and Matti Steinmann, who had to move to Wollongong due to travel restrictions between Australia and New Zealand, Dávila believed the Phoenix still had the experience and quality to be a serious challenge for the championship title.
He said the main goal is to improve to third place last season, which would guarantee a return to the playoffs for the third year in a row.
« Everyone said we made history last season to be in third place and certainly the break because Covid-19 didn’t help us, but it’s not an excuse, and this season we will try to be in the top six our ambitions are the same; having a better year than last and trying to be in second place.
“But the main goal is to get to the playoffs and look for the championship. We’re not starting like last season. We are in a good position. ”
The Phoenix open the season against defending champions Sydney FC on Saturday night at their adopted home WIN Stadium in Wollongong after their first game against Brisbane Roar was postponed.
Wellington Phoenix FC, A-League, Sydney FC, New Zealand National Football Team, Ulises Dávila, Ufuk Talay, Chris Greenacre
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