Galaxy signee Dejan Joveljić excited about chance to play alongside Chicharito

Galaxy signee Dejan Joveljić excited about chance to play alongside Chicharito

Dejan Joveljić admits he didn’t know much about MLS when the Galaxy asked him to come here and play. But he knew some people who did.

So the Serbian striker reached out to Marko Mitrovic, his former coach in the Red Star Belgrade youth system who spent three years as an assistant with the Chicago Fire, and to fellow Serb Ranko Veselinović, who plays with the Vancouver Whitecaps. Their reviews apparently were good enough for Joveljić, who agreed to a 4½-year contract with the Galaxy. He could make his MLS debut as early as next week.

“I had several offers. When I got an offer from L.A. I said this must be a good decision,” said Joveljić, who arrived in Los Angeles on Monday. “I have here all the necessary conditions for my progress. And the people from L.A. were really concrete. They really let me know they wanted me here so it was not a tough decision.”

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Joveljić, acquired on transfer from Eintracht Frankfurt of the German Bundesliga, must complete a COVID-19 protocol and receive visa authorization before he can play. When he does he’ll become the eighth European to join the team this season under first-year coach Greg Vanney.

Details of the contract and the transfer fee were not released, but the deal was done under Major League Soccer’s U-22 initiative, which allows teams to pay unlimited transfer fees for players aged 22 and under. However, that rule also requires the Galaxy to keep Joveljić’s salary below the maximum budget charge of $612,500.

Teams are allowed just three U-22 players, and the Galaxy are at that limit, having used the rule twice earlier this summer to extend the contracts of defender Julian Araujo and midfielder Efraín Álvarez.

Joveljić, who will turn 22 this weekend, scored 19 times in 40 games in all competition with Austria’s Wolfsberger AC, where he played on loan last season. Those numbers mark career highs in both categories for Joveljić, who made his professional debut with Belgrade Red Star in Serbia as a 17-year-old.

Joveljić, who is most comfortable playing as a center forward, can pair with Javier “Chicharito” Hernández up front, but he also gives the Galaxy cover when the injury-prone Hernández, who has missed 16 of the Galaxy’s 38 games in his two seasons, is unavailable. Joveljić is adept with both legs and, at 5-foot-9, is good in the air.

“I hope that I’m going to play with him,” Joveljić said of Chicharito. “He’s an inspiration. I watched him as a kid. The opportunity to play with him, it’s unbelievable.”

The Galaxy, 10-6-1 and third in the Western Conference after Wednesday’s win over Real Salt Lake, have been working on Joveljić’s signing for weeks but couldn’t put the final pieces together until they loaned defender Giancarlo González to Alajuelense of the Costa Rican first division, opening an international roster slot and clearing some room under the league salary cap. González, who didn’t play a minute for the Galaxy this season, is guaranteed more than $918,500 in 2021, according to figures provided by the MLS players association.

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Joveljić said he will be joined soon in Southern California by his parents and his sister. And unlike other young Europeans who have looked at MLS as a finishing school ahead of a return to the continent, Joveljić said he’s not planning that far ahead.

“I’m not thinking about Europe now. I’m here,” he said. “The first impressions are great. It’s my pleasure to be here.”

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