All Whites star Liberato Cacace seals dream transfer to Empoli in Italian Serie A

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New Zealand footballer Liberato Cacace joins Italian Serie A club Empoli on loan.

Isa Ebrahim/Photosport

New Zealand footballer Liberato Cacace joins Italian Serie A club Empoli on loan.

Liberato Cacace is set to become the first New Zealander to play in Italy’s famed Serie A football competition after joining Empoli on loan from Belgian Pro League club Sint-Truiden.

The 21-year-old left-back was one of two All Whites to secure transfers in Europe on transfer deadline day.

Cacace will fulfill his childhood dream of playing in Italy’s top flight, while All Whites teammate Joe Bell was sold to reigning Danish Superliga champion Brøndby for $2.5million after playing for the Norwegian club Eliteserien Viking.

Cacace and Bell both became key figures for the All Whites after graduating through the age brackets, representing New Zealand at Under-17, Under-20 and Under-23 levels .

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Cacace, who is of Italian descent and grew up supporting the Italian men’s national team, burst onto the scene with local club Wellington Phoenix as a teenager.

He moved to Europe in 2020, signing with Sint-Truiden after establishing himself as one of the most exciting young players in the A-League Men.

Empoli currently sit 12th in the 20-team competition after 23 games. They will be under an obligation to sign Cacace permanently if they survive relegation at the end of the season.

All Whites midfielder Matthew Garbett is currently on Turin’s books but has yet to make his first-team debut, while Football Ferns striker Katie Rood spent a season with the Serie women’s side. At Juventus in 2017-18.

Joe Bell joined defending Danish champions Brondby.

ISA EBRAHIM/PHOTOSPORT

Joe Bell joined defending Danish champions Brondby.

Bell, raised in Christchurch, is also a product of Wellington Phoenix Football Academy, but unlike Cacace, he has never played in the A-League Men.

The 22-year-old midfielder signed his first professional contract with Viking in 2020 after excelling for the University of Virginia in the United States.

He made 58 appearances in Norway’s top competition and helped the club clinch a third-place finish last season, their best result since 2007.

Although Bell’s move to Brøndby will see him take a smaller leap than Cacace, who will play in one of Europe’s top five leagues, it is still a career progression for a player widely seen as a future captain. of the All Whites.

Brøndby won the Danish Superliga last season, qualifying the club for the Champions League qualifiers.

They currently sit in third place after 17 games and remain in contention to defend their league title.

Bell signed a four-year contract.

“Brøndby IF is an incredibly exciting opportunity for me and after a few years at Viking FK I feel ready to take the next step,” said Bell.

“I learned a lot during my time at Viking FK and I would like to thank everyone in the club for my time at the club.”

Bell is currently in camp with the All Whites in the United Arab Emirates.

He missed their 3-1 loss to Jordan on Saturday with a calf injury but is back in action to face Uzbekistan in Dubai on Wednesday.

There has been a lot of movement in the January transfer window.

Apart from Chris Wood’s much-publicized move from Premier League relegation rivals Burnley to Newcastle United, other notable moves involving New Zealand players included the signing of Alex Greive for St Mirren in Scotland, Michael Woud for Kyoto Sanga in Japan, Ali Riley for Angel City in the United States, Katie Bowen for North Carolina Courage and Victoria Esson for SC Sand in Germany.

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