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News: Magno Cruz Signs for Umm Salal SC

It was reported on January 1st that Brazilian forward Magno Cruz, who spent three seasons with K League side Jeju United, has moved on from the club and signed for Umm Salal SC in Qatar as he looks to write a new chapter in his football career.  Things have been difficult on the island over the past two seasons, with a failed coaching change resulting in the team's relegation to the second tier for 2020.  Magno, however, was always one of the standout players while at the club, and will be remembered as one of the most respected foreign players in the league in recent memory.  KLU's Branko Belan looks back on his time in Korean football.
(Photo courtesy of Umm Salal SC Twitter)

To say that the 2019 season was an unsuccessful one is a massive understatement when it comes to Jeju United.  Despite its best efforts to build a competitive roster for a run at the ACL, things did not go according to plan as the Board of Directors made one very critical mistake at the beginning of the season, choosing to keep Cho Sung-hwan on as manager following the team's finish in the top half of the split in 2018.

But, there were also many other things going on behind the scenes at the club which had a direct impact on results, and some would say that relegation had already been a foregone conclusion despite all the talent which had come to the club.  Poor decisions plagued the group right from the very beginning, as Jeju looked a complete mess tactically on the pitch and never could put a string of results together all season.  This will likely lead to a complete rebuild as several players are set to leave the club this off-season.

The Road so Far

One such player is Brazilian forward Magno Cruz, who joined Jeju United in the winter transfer window in 2017 spending the past three seasons on the island.  In that time, he played some top notch football scoring some all-important goals to help the islanders win several big matches, both domestically and in continental competition.  His move to Qatar to play for Umm Halal is a needed one, as a fresh page and a change of scenery are badly needed for the player at this stage in his career.

After the early years of his career saw him make stops at Flamengo, Vasco Da Gama and EC Bahia in his native Brazil, Magno first went overseas in 2014 when he joined Esperance Tunis from Bragantino on a free transfer at the end of that year.  He would then move on to Cerezo Osaka in the J League before returning home for the 2016 season to play for AC Goianiense.

It was then that he would make his move to Jeju, where he would find a permanent home for the next three seasons.  He eclipsed the century mark in matches for the island club near the end of the 2019 campaign, a rare feat for a foreign player in Korean football.

The Jeju Chapter

His first season for his now former club was by far his most successful, as he scored fifteen goals across all competitions, including two in the Asian Champions League where Jeju made it to the knockout stage for the first time in club history, losing out in the Round of 16 to eventual champions Urawa Red Diamonds.

His best performance scoring-wise in the league was a two goal showing against Jeonnam Dragons in early July in a match which finished 2-2.  Only weeks later, he registered a goal and an assist in a 3-2 victory over Pohang Steelers.  He would also go on to score in back to back clean sheet victories in the Championship round against Gangwon and Ulsan Hyundai, adding a third against FC Seoul in a 3-2 loss on the last day of the season.

The 2018 campaign saw his production taper off a bit as the team struggled through the middle portion of the season because of poor results.  He still managed eight goals overall in league play including the Championship Round, and also had two goals and an assist in the ACL, scoring and assisting once against Buriram United away on Matchday Two in a 2-0 win and also finding the back of the net against Guangzhou Evergrande in a 5-3 loss the following match.

The greatest moment of last year's campaign may well be his 65th minute winner against Ulsan Hyundai which turned out to be the only goal of the match and helped Jeju to round out the season with three consecutive clean sheets.

Magno scoring against Incheon United 11.02.19
Magno scored several big goals for Jeju United in his three years at the club.

This season saw him tally seven goals and three assists in the regular season, but he wasn't used as well as he should have been under Choi Yun-kyum.  His goal against Incheon in Final B gave the team a glimmer of hope of avoiding the drop, but a 4-2 home loss to Suwon Bluewings confirmed the team's fate of moving down for the 2020 season.

A New Road to Travel

The player himself remarked of his uncertainty of remaining at the club following the end of the season, and now that his departure from the club has been actualized, the hope is that he will be able to successfully turn over a new page as he heads to a new destination to continue his football career.  At 31 years of age, he still has a lot to offer and is capable of playing several different positions in attack, so he will be counted on to inject some offense into a club currently sitting at the bottom of the Stars League with only five points from their first eleven matches this season, while finding the net only seven times the beginning of the season.

A previous move to Thai side Muangthong United did not go through, and it was originally reported that the Brazilian had failed his medical, which in fact is not true, as Magno had a change of heart and chose to go to the Middle East instead.

Magno has a chance to make an immediate impact, and carve out a spot for himself as the lead attacking player.  Umm Salal face a difficult test this coming weekend as they welcome Al Rayyan who currently sit second in the table four points adrift of leaders Al-Duhail.  He will join fellow Brazilian Joao Victor at the club.

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