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Latest star leaves A-League Men for English top flight

Homegrown Wellington Phoenix star Alex Paulsen has joined the growing list of players from Down Under plying their trade in Europe's 'big-five' leagues.

Goalkeeper Paulsen, 21, has signed for English Premier League outfit AFC Bournemouth in a deal described by Wellington as "the biggest outgoing transfer in Phoenix history, eclipsing Sarpreet Singh's move to German giants Bayern Munich in 2019".

Paulsen helped the Phoenix to a memorable 2023/24 campaign, in which the New Zealand-based club finished second in the A-League Men.

He kept a club-record 11 clean sheets in 27 matches as Wellington finished 11 points clear of third-placed Melbourne Victory.

"I'm humbled to be considered worthy of signing with AFC Bournemouth in the Premier League," Paulsen said.

"It means the world to me, my family and to my friends to be offered an opportunity to play in the best league on the planet, which most aspiring young footballers only dream of."

Bournemouth, based on England's south coast, finished 12th in the recently completed Premier League season.

The Auckland-born keeper is the latest to head to the European game from Wellington, following in the footsteps of midfielder Singh - who now plays for Germany's Hansa Rostock - defender Libby Cacace (Empoli, Italy) and forward Ben Waine (Plymouth, England).

He will join Socceroos Harry Souttar (Leicester City), Cameron Burgess and Massimo Luongo (both Ipswich Town), and Joe Gauci (Aston Villa) in the Premier League next season.

Fellow Australia internationals Alessandro Circati (Parma, Italy), Jackson Irvine and Connor Metcalfe (both St Pauli, Germany), will also be playing in one of Europe's 'big-five' leagues in 2024/25.

Adelaide United teenager Nestory Irankunda is on the brink of a high-profile move to Bayern Munich.

Alex Paulsen makes a save.
Alex Paulsen was a mainstay in goal as the Phoenix finished second in the ALM in the 2023/24 season. (Will Murray/AAP PHOTOS)

Capped by New Zealand at under-17 and under-23 level, Wellington's player of the year Paulsen - who also featured in goal for the A-League All Stars side in their recent 8-0 win over EPL outfit Newcastle United - is expected to play for his country at the Olympic Games in Paris.

His move comes days after another ALM player, Perth Glory's Daniel Bennie, joined English Championship outfit Queens Park Rangers.

"I'm really proud AP's scored such a big deal with such a big club in the world's best league," Wellington coach Giancarlo Italiano said.

"It shows what we're building here at the Phoenix by helping a young player move to a Premier League club."