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Transfers: Stefan Mugoša seals sensational return to Incheon United

Incheon United have sealed the return of Stefan Mugoša from J.League side Vissel Kobe on a free transfer, signalling the end of a transfer saga that has rumbled on for months. 
Image via Incheon United press release

The striker has signed on a permanent deal until the end of the 2025 season.

His return was unveiled on Monday, July 10th at Incheon International Airport during a live YouTube broadcast to commemorate the club's 20th anniversary.

Around 25 minutes into the broadcast, the club's main stadium announcer, Ahn Young-min, captured the moment Mugoša walked into the arrivals lounge before he took off his polo shirt to reveal an Incheon United jersey underneath with his name and the number nine printed on the back.

Commenting on his return, Mugoša said: "Long time no see. I'm so happy that I come back home," before raising his arms a loft and saying "We are strong."

According to Incheon's official press release, Mugoša also said: "I want to lead the team's rebound in the second half of the season by joining up again with familiar places, people, coaches and colleagues. Thank you to the best Incheon fans and citizens for waiting for my return. Like coach Jo Sung-hwan's motto, I want to play football that gives them joy. I will prove that Incheon is still strong."

How the transfer unfolded

Mugoša had been very determined to return to Incheon and had even offered to forego the remainder of the wages he was due from Vissel Kobe. He had also rejected any offers from other teams, both in Korea and in other countries since the winter in order to focus on a return to Incheon.

Crucial progress was made on July 2nd when an official letter was sent by Incheon to Vissel Kobe to inform the club that negotiations for a pre-contract agreement would take place with Mugoša, a player who was out of contract in 2024. This meant he was available on a Bosman free transfer.

It's at this point, Incheon say, that the "tables turned." Vissel Kobe had wanted to recoup some of the fee they paid for him but would not have been able to sell him to another team this summer if he agreed a free transfer with a team outside of Japan. Vissel Kobe then entered negotiations to terminate his contract, to save them five months of wages.

Background

It's been no secret that Incheon were determined to bring Mugoša back to the club and had even left the number nine shirt vacant, especially for him.

Mugoša departed Incheon United in last year's summer transfer window when Vissel Kobe triggered a buyout clause in his contract.

An emotional Mugoša bid goodbye to Incheon fans on June 25th, 2022 following a 1-1 draw away to FC Seoul.

He was joining a club in the AFC Champions League and that had Andres Iniesta on its books. But his time in Japan didn't go as planned and in 2022 was limited to five J1 League appearances, two in the J.League Cup, and one in the AFC Champions League.

Since it became clear that he was not in the manager's plans at Vissel Kobe, Mugoša attempted to terminate his contract with Vissel Kobe, including as recently as the 2023 summer transfer window but his attempts to do so were continuously rebuffed.

FNR

What happens now?

The club are still preparing his registration with K League but doing so in time for the game with Daejeon this weekend is not seen as urgent by manager Jo Sung-hwan, according to one member of staff.

The Gyeongin Derby away to FC Seoul in Round 24 is a more realistic target.

Furthermore, Mugoša's lack of game time means that he is not exactly match fit and will need more time to get up to speed.

He appeared just once in the J.League this season, a two-minute cameo off the bench in a 4-0 win over Gamba Osaka back in March. He did, however, feature three times in the J.League Cup.

Mugoša will, however, be taking part in a fan signing event on Sunday ahead of Incheon's home fixture with Daejeon Hana Citizen from 14:30 to 17:30.

Source: Incheon United Press Release

#KLUPod Reaction to Mugoša's Return

Listen to the full podcast here.

Skip to 25 minutes to watch the moment Stefan Mugosa was unveiled as an Incheon United player.

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