Wellington Phoenix has agreed terms with Sint-Truiden on the transfer of Liberato Cacace to the Belgian Pro League club.
19-year-old Cacace has officially signed with the Limburg-based club at the conclusion of Wellington Phoenix’s 2019/20 Hyundai A-League Season, joining a league that is ranked eighth best in the world.
Cacace is the second Wellington Phoenix Academy graduate in the past 13 months to have transferred to a top tier Premier League in Europe after playing for the Phoenix first team; he follows ex-teammate Sarpreet Singh who currently plays with FC Nürnberg on loan from Bayern Munich.
After debuting for the Phoenix as a 17 year old in the 2017/18 season, Cacace played 58 matches for the Phoenix and scored four goals. This season Cacace enjoyed a stand-out campaign for the Phoenix; in 25 appearances he scored three goals and an assist, and has been widely regarded as the best left-back in both New Zealand and the Hyundai A-League.
Prior to him joining the Phoenix first team, Cacace made 22 appearances in the ISPS Handa Premiership National League across the 2016/17 and 2017/18 seasons as part of the Wellington Phoenix Academy team. He was one of three Phoenix Academy graduates who played in the Phoenix first team this season, joining Sam Sutton and Ben Waine.
Wellington Phoenix General Manager, David Dome, says that Cacace taking this next step in his career is a testament to the club’s youth development system and pathway structure – which they have spent many years working on.
“Cacace is proof not only that hard work pays off for young players with the drive to succeed, but also that the Wellington Phoenix and its Academy are a solid pathway for young Kiwi players to achieve international success.”
“We see the Academy as not only vital for the Phoenix in terms of growing local talent, but also for the wider sporting landscape in New Zealand – we want young players to see what Cacace has accomplished and believe they can access those same pathways to achieve their own goals.”
Phoenix Coach Ufuk Talay says that he and the team are thrilled for Cacace.
“The coaching staff and I are proud of what Libby has achieved to get to this stage of his career, and we’ve long believed he will have a remarkable career whether it’s here or in Europe.
“He’ll be able to continue his development at Sint-Truiden and get the minutes he needs and an opportunity to start, which is important for his continued growth.
"We wish him the very best in Europe and will continue to watch his development as a professional footballer from afar."
Cacace has thanked the club for the time spent at the Phoenix and for their professionalism.
“I would like to thank the club for everything they have done for me since I first started at the Phoenix Academy as a 16 year old, and for the professional manner in which they have gone through this transfer agreement with Sint-Truiden.
“Ufuk and the club know that it’s been a dream of mine to play in Europe, and they’re worked hard to help me achieve my individual goals and aspirations – alongside the club’s goals - while I’ve been part of the club.”
The Belgian Pro League began their shortened season on 8 August 2020, and Cacace will join a few familiar faces at Sint-Truiden (STVV) including Kevin Muscat, Carlos Pérez Salvachúa and Luciano Trani; all have previously coached in the Hyundai A-League and are part of the STVV coaching staff.