Day of Long K-Nives
Usually the end of the K-League season introduces a quiet few weeks as coaches, players and administrators head to warmer climes while they can but this December has been the busiest ever with hitherto unheard of coaching changes.
In just one day in the middle of December, three K-League teams lost their head coach. Jeonbuk Motors, Suwon Bluewings and Busan I'Park are all Asian champions. At the moment, it is almost as easy to list the teams that still have the same man in charge than the ones which don't.
Suwon's lost Yoon Sung-hyo, a man who had never really endeared himself to the fans. Results were not bad but the football was not the best. Yoon at least leaves the two-time continental champs with a place in the 2013 Asian Champions League and taken over at Busan, telling fans that he is better than he looks. Suwon will be handled by his assistant Seo Jung-won, a legend of Korean football. Regarded as one of East Asia’s best-ever players, Seo's status will stand him good stead, for a while at least.
Yoon replaces An Ik-soo at Busan after An had been tempted by the rebuilding job at Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma. The Yellows parted way with Shin Tae-yong, the man who delivered the 2010 Asian title after a couple of disappointing seasons. Shin has headed to England to study, An who built Busan into a solid if functional team, will get a chance to show what he is made of on a bigger stage.
Jeonbuk's Lee Heung-sil stepped down after a second place finish behind FC Seoul, though it was way behind. Lee was a caretaker of sorts himself, keeping the hotseat warm for Choi Kang-hee who left to take control of the national team in December. Choi wants to come back in June whatever happens with the Taeguk Warriors. It is a messy situation.
It's the same at Daegu FC. Moacir Perieria did a pretty good job in his first season, taking the perennial strugglers to the giddy heights of tenth before finding out that the team did not want to take up the option of extending his contract for a second year. He, and his three assistants, were too expensive was the reason given. Fans were not happy.
And then there is Daejeon Citizen, a team that escaped the drop with just a couple of games to spare. 2002 star Yoo Sang-chul got the chop and was replaced by Kim In-wan.
All the swapping of coaches has meant that there has not been a great deal of activity when it comes to players. Kwak Tae-hwi, captain of Asian champions Ulsan Horang-I, is in demand from China, Saudi Arabia and UAE. He may stay with the Tigers, he may go and with the money on offer, between $4-5 million, Ulsan will not be too sorry to see the centre back go.
Daejeon Citizen's goalscoring star Kevin Oris is also being chased, but by K-League clubs. With his contract ending next season, do Daejeon take the $600,000 or so offered by Jeonbuk and Pohang or hang on to him in the knowledge that without the Belgian's 16 goals last season, they would have been relegated.
FC Seoul have signed Gyeongnam's highly-rated attacking midfielder Yoon Il-rok and the champions are preparing to fight off interest and big-money bids for their attacking stars such as Dejan Damjanovic and Mauricio Molina.
North Korea's star striker Jong Tae Se is a big star south of the border too and is set to sign for Suwon. Negotiations with FC Koln in Germany have been long but Suwon finally met the asking price and now there is a good deal of paperwork to sort out. It should all happen, barring unforeseen circumstances, and given the circumstances, something could go wrong, in January.
From England to Korea
Much is made of players who head straight to the English Premier League from the K-League. Ji Dong-won followed that path 18 months ago when joining Sunderland. Despite a couple of high profile goals against Chelsea and then a last-minute winner at home to Manchester City, Ji has had absolutely no playing time this season for the Black Cats.
Former club Chunnam Dragons would be happy to take the striker from England's north-east to Korea’s south-west but at the moment, Sunderland are asking for their money back -$3.5 million. That is not going to happen. Chunnam could perhaps pay half that. Another K-League club could step in however.
From England to…
Lee Chung-yong is tipped to leave Bolton Wanderers this January. The fleet-footed winger became a fan favourite at the Reebok in his first two seasons and ready for a big move elsewhere when he broke his leg in pre-season in July 2011. By the time he returned, Bolton were on their way into the Championship. The Seoul media has a move to Wigan Athletic or Stoke City as possible.
Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com
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