Central Coast Mariners have boosted their defensive stocks with the signing of former English Premier League defender, Kalifa Cissé on a one-year deal.
The French-born Mali international, impressed in the top tier of Portuguese football which resulted in a lucrative move to the EPL with Reading, 2007-10.
The 34-year-old, who can be deployed as a defensive midfielder or centre back, said he was looking forward to mentoring the club's younger players and reuniting with coach, Mike Mulvey.
“For me this is a really exciting challenge,” said Cissé who most recently lined up for Thai outfit BEC Tero Sasana.
“I have spoken with some players who have played in the A-League and said really positive things and I have also worked with Andrew Young (Mariners Elite Performance Coach), Mike Mulvey as well as playing against Nick Montgomery in England."
“When the opportunity came up for me to join the Central Coast Mariners it was an easy decision – the club is very ambitious and I can’t wait to get started.
“We have a really young team here at the moment, so I bring experience into the team. I really want to help the young players to grow – that’s one of my highest priorities.
“We want to be disciplined, we want to be well organised in defence and we want to show a strong fighting spirit and I want to play a big part in that."
Cisse's career started as a junior within the academy ranks of Tolouse before a move to Portugal saw him ultimately join Boavista FC (Portugal). He also played for Bristol City, New England Revolution (USA), Derby County.
Not a known goal scorer, Cissé found the back of the net for Reading in a memorable 6-4 defeat against Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League. He became a fan favourite after a crucial goal he scored in the Championship against Wolves as well as firing home the club’s goal of the season in 2008 against Bristol City.
Mulvey, who coached Cisse in the Thai League 1, praised the player's ‘win at all costs’ mentality and leadership qualities.
“Kalifa is experienced, he’s not only played in the English Premier League but he also comes with worldly experience having played in France, Thailand and the UK to name a few,” Mulvey said. “One of the big strengths he brings to the team is leadership.
“We know he will be a solid voice at the back, he will nurture the younger players – so he is a very good acquisition for the team and we’re really excited to get him in with the team.
“When I was working in Thailand he came from two very successful clubs in Bangkok United and Bangkok Glass where he won trophies. When he came into BEC Tero Sasana where I was working, the thing about Kalifa was, he’s a gentleman off the pitch, but when he’s on the pitch he knows how to be a real footballer.
“I’ve seen first-hand how competitive Kalifa is – he hates to lose even at training. We want a bit of mongrel in the team, players who need to be winners and hopefully we can all learn from that."
Central Coast Mariners Squad
Goalkeepers: Joe GAUCI, Ben KENNEDY, Adam PEARCE
Defenders: Jonathan ASPROPOTAMITIS, Kalifa CISSÉ, Jack CLISBY, Antony GOLEC, Jake McGING, Kye ROWLES
Midfielders: Adam BERRY, Danny De SILVA, Tom HIARIEJ, Michael McGLINCHEY, Jacob MELLING, Mario SHABOW
Attackers: Corey GAMEIRO, Andrew HOOLE, Connor PAIN, Matt SIMON