Free agent Erik Paartalu is putting a possible A-League return on hold as he seeks to land a J.League deal after parting company with Chinese Super League Tianjin Teda this week.
The towering former Brisbane Roar midfielder was stunned to hear that the club’s chairman wanted him replaced after a stellar debut season in China where he was ever present during his 13-month stay at the club which finished 11th on the ladder in 2012-2013.
But he is set to quickly pick up the pieces after leaving the club with “a considerable compensation package” with two years remaining on his contract.
And Japan, where there is interest from two clubs, is his preferred destination as he seeks the catch the eye of his former Brisbane Roar mentor Ange Postecoglou in a FIFA World Cup year.
With the 27-year-old currently back in Scotland training with former club Greenock Morton, his agent David O’Keefe will jet to Japan next week in an attempt to finalise a deal for the player whose availability has sparked interest in the A-League.
“This is a big year for all players on the fringes of the Socceroos and Erik feels that playing in Japan would give him the best possible chance of getting picked,” said O’Keefe of the twice capped Paartalu.
“We are hopeful that something can be finalised in the next week or so, and there is also interest from China, Korea and Thailand but his top priority is Japan because of the high standard of the competition there.
“Obviously if that doesn’t happen then he will assess his options and a return home would then be a distinct possibility but it’s certainly not his first choice because he wants to continue to do well in Asia and build on what he has achieved so far.”
Paartalu became a cult figure among Tianjin fans during his season-long stay, scoring four times in 30 appearances and earning the respect of supporters with his ball-winning attributes and lung-busting forays into opposition territory.
He was told he was no longer required during a pre-season training camp in Spain last week by new coach, former Dutch international Arie Haan.
But the decision came from Li Guangyi, the club’s chairman, who is targeting a foreign defender as his replacement.
“Erik did well there and he has been overwhelmed by the response of fans on social media saying they are sorry to see him go,” added O’Keefe.
“Initially Tianjin wanted to put a transfer fee on his head but that was obviously not acceptable since it was the club which wanted to terminate the agreement.
“But we met halfway and he has been adequately compensated and is now a free agent, which gives him options, especially since the clubs in Japan are not keen on paying any transfer fees. One J.League team is keen on him and there’s another in the second tier.
“He left China with his head held high and is now ready to get on with the next stage of his career. There were a couple of A-League clubs looking to bring him back on loan before his departure from Tianjin – but obviously now he is not tied to anybody a return home on a permanent basis is not out of the question.
“He had three great seasons at Brisbane Roar and it’s not surprising that there is interest in him back in the A-League.”
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