Transfer news: Aussie signs for K-League outfit

Jeju United have confirmed the signing of Australian defender Aleksandar Jovanovic, and he is now set to face Adelaide United in the ACL.

Jovanovic returns to the K League club after one year with Chinese Super League (CSL) outfit Tianjin Teda.

He made 23 CSL appearances for Tianjin in 2016 but will this year play his fourth season in South Korea’s top flight where he has previously turned out for Jeju and Suwon FC.

The 27-year-old, who was born in Sydney but has yet to play professionally in Australia, played 53 K League matches for Jeju before departing for Tianjin.

“I missed Jeju when I left for China as they were like family to me,” Jovanovic said in a statement.

“Now I want to commit myself to Jeju as I come back.”

Jovanovic appears to be a victim of the CSL’s sudden decision last month to reduce the number of foreign players who can be on the pitch at any one time to three and scrap the import berth reserved for other Asian Football Confederation nations.

Ten Australian players – including Melbourne-born Turkey international Ersun Gulum – played in the CSL in 2016.

Only Apo Giannou and Matthew Spiranovic remain with their clubs ahead of China’s 2017 season, although the latter’s Hangzhou Greentown have been relegated, while Robbie Kruse and James Holland have swum against the current by joining Liaoning Whowin.

Jovanovic’s move to Jeju makes him the fifth Australian contracted to clubs in the K League Classic – South Korea’s top tier – for 2017.

Centre-back Tomislav Mrcela remains at Jeonnam Dragons, while fellow defenders Matt Jurman (Suwon Bluewings) and Connor Chapman (Incheon United) made moves in January.

Ex-Brisbane Roar midfielder Dimitri Petratos joined Ulsan last week and former Sydney FC midfielder Ali Abbas – who is a naturalised Australian citizen and Iraq international – is on the books at Pohang Steelers although his future is in doubt.

There have been reports Abbas is on the outer at Pohang, who apparently want to sign Australian attacking midfielder Dario Vidosic.

Jeju’s 2017 campaign will start in the AFC Champions League next week when they host Jiangsu Suning, while Jovanovic and Co. will also face Adelaide United in Group H.

The K League Classic resumes in March with Jeju visiting Chapman’s Incheon in the opening round.