Jovanovic looking for breakthrough year

Trent Sainsbury, James Troisi and Apostolos Giannou all recently moved to the Chinese Super League (CSL) but one Aussie name to make the switch without much fanfare is Aleksandar Jovanovic.

The little-known Melbourne-born 26-year-old defender signed a two-year deal with an option for an additional season with Tianjin Teda last month.

Jovanovic’s move came out of nowhere, approached while training in China with Korean K-League club Jeju United.

He’s now joined the likes of Ezequiel Lavezzi, Gervinho, Ramires, Alex Teixeira, Asamoah Gyan and Tim Cahill in a league which is making waves around the world given the money being spent.

“In China they’re bringing in more world class attackers which is going to be a good challenge for us,” Jovanovic told FourFourTwo.

“There’s quite a few Aussie defenders here now. I guess all of us are going to improve here.”

The standard of the CSL is a regular topic for debate, particularly in Australia given five players in the current 23-man Socceroos squad now play in China, in addition to Troisi who was overlooked as he regains match fitness.

Jovanovic has started both of Tianjin’s league matches this season but said it was too early to compare the standard.

The Bonnyrigg White Eagles junior, though, admitted he didn’t take long to accept Tianjin’s offer.

“I got a phonecall during our pre-season training camp saying ‘a Chinese club were interested in me and would I consider taking it’,” he said. 

“I said ‘yes, of course’. China is a future growing market and the league is growing, so I was keen to take it. 

“After a few days a concrete offer came through and I accepted it.

“It did come out of nowhere, but I’m happy it did come.”

Jovanovic told FourFourTwo last year that the FFA had contacted him about being on a 50-man Socceroos list of registered players for World Cup qualifying. 

The 196-centimetre central defender is yet to get a national team call-up from Ange Postecoglou, having had knee issues last year at Jeju.

Jovanovic said he was setting himself for a big 2016, hoping a positive CSL impact can be the catalyst.

“Last year Tianjin didn’t do too well, finishing 13th. This year they’ve got a whole new management and coaches,” he said. 

“We’re aiming to go back into the top five. We have a whole bunch of new players and we’re looking good as a team.

“I am 100% fit. I’m doing everything I can to be injury free.”