Sunday, July 5, 2015

Report: Union sign Serbian striker Paunović

According to a report from major Spanish news organization AS, the Philadelphia Union have signed 33-year-old Serbian striker Veljko Paunović to a one-year contract.

Report: Union sign Serbian striker Paunović

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Veljko Paunović last played professionally for Serbian club Partizan Belgrade in 2008. (AP file photo)
Veljko Paunović last played professionally for Serbian club Partizan Belgrade in 2008. (AP file photo)

UPDATE: I'm told the signing isn't entirely official yet, or at least it wasn't as of this morning. But discussions are underway, and as Paunović tweeted yesterday, he was at PPL Park for the games against Los Angeles and Chicago. So I think there's something to this.

According to this report from major Spanish news organization AS, the Philadelphia Union have signed 33-year-old Serbian striker Veljko Paunović to a one-year contract.

In addition to the report, which was published May 21 (hat tip to The Brotherly Game for finding it), Paunović tweeted the following (in Spanish) on May 23:

El Fútbol es grande!Gracias x darme la oportunidad d volver a disfrutarlo d nuevo jugando.Anuncio mi vuelta y fichaje x Philadelphia Union.

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The last sentence translates to: "Announcing my return and signing with Philadelphia Union." The Union haven't announced anything yet, but I suspect it won't be long before they do.

Paunović played in the Union's Reserve League game against D.C. United on May 16. He was in the club's locker room after the game against Chicago this past Saturday.

Although the Union don't normally acknowledge the identities of trialists, MLSSoccer.com's Dave Zeitlin wrote a report about Paunović's performance in the Reserve League game that you can read here.

Paunović has not played professional soccer since 2008, when he played nine games with Serbian club Partizan Belgrade. He started his career there in 1994, and was trained in the club's youth system growing up.

He left Partizan in 1995, and bounced around a number of Spanish clubs until 2004. He then went to German club Hannover 96 for a brief spell before returning to Spain, leaving again to go Russia, and returning to Spain one more time.

Paunović spent most of his time in spain with Atlético Madrid. He also had spells with Marbella, RCD Mallorca, Real Oviedo, Tenerife, Getafe and Almeria.

In 2008, Paunović left Spain yet again, to finish his playing career with Partizan. His travels almost took him to the New York Red Bulls in 2009, but he never signed there.

At the national team level, Paunović played two games for what was at one point Yugoslavia, then Serbia and Montenegro.

In 2002, he played for Yugoslavia in a 2-1 friendly loss to Mexico in Phoenix. The game was played at the Arizona Diamondbacks' baseball stadium.

In 2004, he played for Serbia and Montenegro in a 1-1 friendly draw against Northern Ireland in Belfast. Paunović scored the visitors' goal in that game.

Most recently, Paunović has been the head coach of Atlético's top youth team, the Cadete B. It is similar in operation to the Union's reserve team. From what I can tell, he has been staying in shape in part by playing for an Atlético Madrid veteran players' indoor soccer team. There are some video highlights of a game against a team of Real Madrid veterans here.

On the whole, it seems this guy is a journeyman. The upside is that he has some legitimate experience working with young soccer players, and the Union have plenty of those. They would likely benefit from Paunović's knowledge and experience.

As to what Paunović can bring to the first team on the field, we'll have to see. If nothing else, he'll bring depth to the squad when Carlos Ruiz leaves to play in the Gold Cup next month.

I found a YouTube compilation of highlights from Paunović's career:



Paunović spoke with the "This is Atleti" podcast on April 3. Judging from what I heard on the show, his English is pretty fluent. So that won't be a problem for the Union.

Finally, Paunović has his own website, which you can check out here. It's a bit tricky to navigate, though, because the Flash coding doesn't seem to quite work right.

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