Three Premier League clubs were after Alex Paulsen. A legend won the race for Bournemouth

'I was lost for words' | Alex Paulsen reflects on life-changing Premier League move

Wellington Phoenix star Alex Paulsen says there’s an “action plan” in place for his development at AFC Bournemouth after he put pen to paper on a four-year contract with the Premier League club.

The 21-year-old joined the Cherries on Wednesday, June 5 in a deal that broke Wellington’s record outgoing transfer fee.

A move to the Premier League caps off a dream season in which he was entrusted by new Phoenix coach Giancarlo Italiano to take on the role of first-choice keeper at the club, despite making zero first team appearances the season prior.

Paulsen made 29 appearances and was a key figure in the best campaign in Phoenix history. He kept 12 clean sheets along Wellington’s journey to the Semi-Finals and won three of the league’s post-season awards, including Goalkeeper of the Year.

SIGNING NEWS: Phoenix star seals Premier League move in biggest outgoing transfer in club history: Full details

Up next? The bright lights of the Premier League. Paulsen was asked whether he’d envisaged what it might feel like to play at stadiums like Old Trafford and Anfield since the confirmation of his Bournemouth move – but the young keeper is refusing to get ahead of himself.

“To be honest, I haven’t actually really thought about that, those type of scenarios playing in my head,” he said.

“At first, it was more about you know, the significance of this transfer going to Bournemouth and then also just repaying the sacrifices that my family made for me to be present at this moment, and to be put in a position today where I can say I’ve got a great opportunity to put myself out there to play in the Premier League.

“I’m very excited. It’s a big moment for my family,” he added. “And I’m just very, very thrilled to hopefully look forward to what, what the next steps have on offer.”

Paulsen says conversations with former Bournemouth captain and current first-team technical director Simon Francis helped to convince him of the move to the Cherries.

“(My) agent kept me informed close to six weeks ago, about particular interest and Bournemouth were the ones that caught our eye, and were very intentional with the proposal and the fantastic opportunity for them to give to me,” Paulsen said.

“We’ve discussed an action plan, and to reiterate it’s a four-year deal, and they wouldn’t be giving me this four-year deal without a potential opportunity or an action plan invested in me. So there’s discussions with the action plan and what that what that looks like.

“And then what also satisfied me as well as that they looked at me, personally, for my goalkeeping abilities, not anything else as well. The fact that, you know, I can play out from the back, I’m a shot-stopper as well, the fact that they were able to look at those abilities in me first and foremost is what has drawn my attention.

“I was lost for words, to be fair. It was a big moment for me and my family to get an opportunity from Bournemouth to actually be interested in signing me as well. So I’m just very grateful for that. 

“It was more the fact that I had conversations with Simon Francis, the friendly nature that came across to me, the intent, (and) the intention that they brought towards the action plan when I’m going over to Bournemouth.

“As a kid, I (grew) up watching the Phoenix play, and to leave here with a Premier League club, it’s fantastic to know that I’ve left creating a bit of history or leaving my part within the Wellington Phoenix. So I’m very grateful for that.”

Phoenix goalkeeping coach Ruben Parker has overseen Paulsen’s development over the past two years, and witnessed first-hand his rapid progression from a backup keeper with potential to Wellington’s No.1 – and one of the best goalkeepers, if not the best, in the league.

“I think what was surprising about that was just how quickly he adapted and to the level, to the pressure,” Parker said. “That was really rewarding, and we all believe that he had that ability.

“But my question was more about how long would it take for him to be able to show that. And he did it within five minutes of the first game. It shows how special AP is as a player. And he’s earned everything that’s coming his way at the moment. 

“he came into the academy at 15, and he was playing football before that. But at 21, normally the goalkeeper have a two-or-three-year lag behind outfielders in terms of their progression.

“So AP at 21, to be making a move to what’s regarded the best league in the world, and not only that have interest from three clubs within that league speaks volumes to where he’s at now. 

“But it’s important that the same mindset, the same work ethic that he’s displayed the last few years that I’ve seen him and, and even before that, that if he continues with that, I think the world is oyster there, and he can go as high as he can. 

“I think the development plan now is in Bournemouth’s hands as well, at least for the next four years. And they’ve got a really good reputation for developing players, but also goalkeepers. I’m really excited for them to do right by AP, and I know that they will. And I’m excited for AP to take those chances and show what he can do every step of the way.”

Although the transfer fee has not been disclosed, the Phoenix have confirmed the sum eclipsed the club’s previous outgoing transfer record set by Sarpreet Singh’s move to Bayern Munich in 2019.

Gill says the club spent three-to-four weeks working with Bournemouth to ensure any transfer would be mutually beneficial for the club and Paulsen himself.

“And then we got to a point where it made sense for the club, it made sense for Alex and it was the right thing to do,” Gill said.

It’s definitely fantastic, it’s a great endorsement for the club to be having conversations with these particular clubs. Hopefully in the future we’ll be having more of them with the likes of (Finn) Surman and Ben Old… there’s a lot of noise around some of the plays at the moment.

“You know, a couple of agents in regular contact about potential clubs that are interested in a couple of players. I would expect we’ll have further conversations at some point. For some of these guys, that’s the right time to be going on and taking the next challenge in their career.”

It comes as no surprise that the likes of Surman (20), Old and Paulsen (both 21) have generated interest from rival clubs following their respectively stellar seasons at the Phoenix in 2023-24.

Together, the three talented youngsters are part of a cohort of prospects developing in the Australia and New Zealand, catching the attention of overseas clubs and, as a result, positioning their Isuzu UTE A-League clubs to entertain substantial offers of substantial value.

“It’s critical,” Gill said. “It’s another stream of revenue that is really important to the club. It helps bridge the deficit that is reasonably significant at the moment and allows us to continue what we’re doing in the academy space in the A-League Men space and the A-League Women space, it’s really important. 

“It’s not just about what we get out of it, I think it’s also about what’s important for the player and what fits for the player and in this particular instance.

“The financial aspect of (the Paulsen transfer) for us was exceptional, I think it goes into I think the top five transfers and the A-League, it’s obviously our biggest one by a country mile.”

“But just as important for that as it made sense for AP and it made sense for AP’s trajectory as as a goalkeeper. You’ve got to factor all those things in to get the right move.

“I think what we’ve seen over the last two or three transfer windows, there are a lot more eyeballs on the A-League anyway.

I you think about (Joe) Gauci going to Aston Villa, Jordan Bos (to KVC Westerlo), Marco Tilio to Celtic, (Ben Waine) I guess even to Plymouth, there are a lot more eyeballs on the A-League as it stands at the moment.”