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Seoul E-Land Pre-Season Update

Photo courtesy of Seoul E-Land

The chairman's snazzy checked official signing sports jacket was dry-cleaned and pressed in anticipation of officially welcoming Jonatas Belluso (pictured above) to the club in what is so far probably the biggest capture of the close season for E-Land.

Martin Rennie's squad building for 2016 has been something of a mixed bag with a number of first team squad members leaving Jamsil and, to date, a lesser number of replacements having been sourced.

Belluso is one of a handful of signings made from Gangwon FC and the forward will be joined by Lee Sang-ki (who will presumably be back-up to Glory in goals) and Lee Jae-hoon (who played 31 games in defence for Gangwon last season). The Brazilian looks to be the pick of the bunch and was a standout for Gangwon last season banging in 15 goals. E-Land have also been pretty sharp in finding a Syrian granny for Belluso which means that he will fill the Asian quota for the 2016 season and leaving an additional foreigner slot free.

Elsewhere, the capture of Jeonnam's centre-half Kim Dong-cheol seems to be a good bit of business while Rennie will be hoping history repeats himself and Goyang midfielder Kim Joon-tae turns out to be Joo Min-kyu Mk2.

Completing the experienced signings is Daegu's left-back Lee Joon-hee who was pretty solid in Daegu's campaign last year while the remaining new faces are youngsters Kim Ji-hoon, Kim Hyun-kyu and Ahn Tae-hyun.

Normally you might think that the above signings would be more than enough for one season but with the number of exits from the team there are still gaps to be filled and presumably Rennie's business is not yet done.

Most notable of those leaving was midfield general Cho Won-hee. The former international is heading back to Suwon Samsung Bluewings in something of a surprise transfer and his presence will be missed in the middle of the park. So too will Kim Sung-ju who is doing his military service with Sangju. In defence the absence of Hwang Do-yeon, whose loan ended, will also noticed.

Also heading for the out door have been Lee Jae-an (to Suwon FC), Lee Bum-soo (to Daejeon), Choi Chi-won) back to Jeonbuk, Jeon Ki-sung (loaned to Bucheon). Ryan Johnson and Bobby Cullen have both been released.

Confusion still seems to be the order of the day over Tarabai also. The little Brazilian has returned to Malta after the end of his loan and, while his Facebook feed seems to suggest he's waiting on a return to E-Land, there is no official confirmation of where his future lies as far as I am aware.

This may not be the end of the departures either as defender Oh Chang-hyun is on trial at Daejeon Citizen with a view to a move. The full back is presumably well down the pecking order after a few signings in that position and is looking for first team football elsewhere.

Ignoring the fringe men then, and assuming Tarabai will return eventually, I make it about 7 out and 5 in and it's open to debate whether the team has been strengthened or weakened by the business done so far. Potentially 3 out of 4 of the backline have been replaced and given the number of goals conceded in 2015 that's probably not a bad thing.

In midfield things look ever so slightly threadbare and my hope would be that the remaining foreigner slot could be used to bring in a suitable replacement for Cho Won-hee or a wideman to replace Kim Sung-ju. The impact that Sisi had for Suwon last season can't be underestimated and a signing of similar calibre would certainly help ease any pre-season concerns for E-Land.

The pre-season fixtures so far announced will make it difficult to judge just how prepared the team are for the big kick-off in March as two university sides and a couple of N-League teams aren't particularly stiff challenges. The first real test of the new look E-Land will come on Feb 16th when they take on just-relegated Chinese Super League team Shanghai Shenxin. Hopefully by then we will have a better idea of how the team is going to shape-up for the new season.

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