A-League club Newcastle Jets have confirmed to signing of former Socceroos forward Eli Babalj.
The two-time Socceroos striker Eli Babalj is returning to the A-League for the first time since 2019, when he played with Brisbane Roar. The 29-year old started his career with Melbourne City before moving abroad to Red Star Belgrade.
Babalj then played for Dutch Eredivisie side AZ, going out on loan spells to Adelaide United and PEC Zwolle during his time in the Netherlands. He has also played abroad in the Czech Republic, India and most recently in Thailand.
Babalj has since returned to Australia, taking part in pre-season with Newcastle. His new Jets Manager Arthur Papas, who had coached Babalj as a youngster, spoke about reconnecting with his former player:
“Having first coached Eli when he was 16, I know the person and the player, and we’ve signed a man with a fantastic mentality.
“He is technically outstanding, physically imposing at 6-foot-4, and is clinical in the box.
“Eli has been with us since the start of pre-season and we set him a challenge which he has taken with both hands.
“He has earned this opportunity and in return we are signing a player who has played for Australia at every level, as well as at the top tier of football in Europe and, importantly, has a point to prove.”
Babalj, who was previously capped with Australia featuring twice for the Socceroos in 2012 and 2013, echoed the sentiment:
“I’m really excited to join a team that will play a very exciting and attacking brand of football”,
“I believe we will be successful and give the fans in Newcastle something to be proud of.
“The biggest reason I came here was to work under Arthur again. I know his teams play great football, and he’s building something special here.
“I’m coming here to do my part by working hard and scoring goals to help the team to fight for the title.”
So far the Newcastle Jets have Matthew Jurman, Riley Warland, Dylan Murnane, Jordan Elsey, Kosta Grozos, Savvas Siatravanis, Olivier Boumal, Beka Mikeltadze, Dane Ingham, Mohamed Al-Taay, Jordan O'Doherty, Samuel Silvera, Daniel Penha, Jason Hoffman, Jack Duncan, Ben Kantarovski, Kosta Petratos, Angus Thurgate, Lucas Mauragis, Valentino Yuel, Noah James, Michael Weier, Archie Goodwin and Blake Archbold committed for the upcoming season.
Newcastle Jets open their A-League Men's season on November 21, 2021 against Central Coast Mariners. Their full schedule can be found using this link.