Friday, March 6, 2009

K-League 2009 Season Preview

K-League 2009 Season Preview.
Suwon Samsung Bluewings
It has been an up and down close-season for the champs.

(Major) Departures: It was no surprise to lose defender Mato Neretljak, though it was expected he would return to Europe and not go to Japan. Defensive partner Lee Jang-soo has also headed east. Midfielder Cho Won-hee is now at Wigan and Shin Young-rok is in Turkey.

(Major) Arrivals: Chinese star Li Weifeng and Brazilian defender Jorge Luiz are in charge of maintaining the solid Suwon backline. Highly-rated midfielder Lee Sang-ho joins from Ulsan.

Prospects: On the face of it, replicating last year’s form looks tough – especially with the demands of the Asian Champions League. There will be more opportunities for younger players such as Seo Dong-hyun and Cho Yong-tae to show if they can do the business week in, week out.

FC Seoul

Not much has been going on in the capital – no bad thing when you consider the number of deals elsewhere. Boss Senol Gunes, heartbroken at missing out on the title last year, has released some of his experienced stars who were finding playing time hard to come by as the youngsters impressed.

Departures: Goalkeeper Kim Byung-ji has moved to Gyeongnam while Lee Eul-yong is now a Gangwon FC player.

Arrivals: A few young players have swelled the ranks but no big signings.

Prospects: Can the young stars prosper without wiser heads? There is a wealth of talent at the club but they don’t yet have that winning mentality, This could be the year.

Seongnam Ilhwa

There have been huge changes in the Gyeonggi city. Coach Kim Hak-bom ‘resigned’ after the club failed at the play-off stage last season. In comes rookie boss ‘Mr Seongnam’ Shin Tae-young.

Departures: So many established stars have departed including– Kim Sang-sik, Kim Young-chul, Son Dae-ho, Choi Sung-kuk, Kim Dong-hyun, Dudu and Lee Dong-guk.

Arrivals: At least Mota has stayed and he will be joined in attack by Incheon’s former battering ram, Dzenan Radoncic. Lee Ho arrives in midfield from Zenit St Petersburg while the main signing at the back is in the form of Australian defender Sasa Ognenovski. The little heralded arrival of Kim Jin-yong may be a great catch – if the striker can recover the form of four years ago.

Prospects: With all the upheavals and the new coach, a season of consolidation looks to be on the cards.

Ulsan Hyundai Horang-i

Ulsan were the form team of the second half of last season but fell at the play-off stage. Long-serving Kim Jung-nam has retired and the less than inspiring replacement is Kim Ho-gon.

Departures: Lee Sang-ho has joined Suwon and will be a big loss and defender Park Dong-hyuk is with Gamba Osaka. Woo Sung-yung is still going but not at Ulsan – he signed for Incheon.

Arrivals: Striker Cho Jin-soo arrives from Jeju.

Prospects: Not great, Ulsan certainly look weaker than last season and they also have the Asian Champions League to contend with.

Pohang Steelers

Pohang finished fifth once again but were unable to repeat their title success of the previous year. It was a slightly disappointing season for the Steelers and they never really found their rhythm.

Departures: Park Won-jae fought his way to the fringes of the national team for a while last season but has now moved to cashed-up J-League club Omiya Ardija.

Arrivals: The main signing is Brasilia from Ulsan - no prizes for guessing where he is from...

Prospects: More of the same from Pohang - not too far from the top three without really challenging

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

Jeonbuk squeezed into the play-offs on the final day last season after a good run in the latter stages of the campaign. They didn’t get very far. Coach Choi Kang-hee is looking to improve.

Departures: Cho Jae-jin has joined Gamba Osaka in a big money deal while Chung Kyung-ho has upped sticks to Gangwon. International defender Kang Min-soo is now a Jeju player.

: Former internationals Lee Dong-guk and Kim Sang-sik arrive in Jeonju. Ha Dae-sung has put himself on the fringes of the national team and the midfielder will be missed at Daegu.

Prospects: Cho won’t be missed to much in Jeonju and if Lee Dong-guk can find his form, then Jeonbuk will be more dangerous this year especially if Korea’s Riquelme, Kim Hyung-beom stays injury-free.

Incheon United

Incheon started well but faded last season with little excitement or good football on display. United are just one of many clubs that will look much different this time round. For a start coach jang Woe-ryong has gone to Japan’s Omiya Ardija and in has come Serbia’s 2006 World Cup boss Ilja Petkovic.

Departures: Beanpole striker Dzenan Radoncic has gone to Seongnam. Bad boy Bang sung-hwan is at Jeju.

Arrivals: Australian defender Jade North was signed in a big-money deal, in also comes midfielder Son Dae-ho and Macedonian marksman Dragan Cadikovski.

Prospects: Incheon look to be stronger this season and have added a little class. Much depends on Cadikovski but Incheon are feeling optimistic about the new season.

Jeju United

The islanders recovered somewhat after a slow start last season to finish firmly in mid-table. Coach Artur Bernardes hinted that he could help the club move up the table.

Departures: Romulo has gone to Busan while Cho Jin-soo is now an Ulsan player.

Arrivals: International defender Kang Min-soo is one of the more expensive signings of the winter. He will line up with national team mate Cho Hyong-yong. There are the usual couple of new Brazilians as well as the temperamental Bang Sung-hwan.

Gyeongnam FC

Departures: Kim Jin-yong is now at Seongnam.

Arrivals: Kim Dong-hyun comes from Seongnam in a swap deal and the hope of regular first-team football. Veteran 'keeper Kim Byung-ji arrives from Seoul.

Prospects: There have been too many major changes at Gyeongnam. It is encouraging that Indio, who really started to look good in the second half of last season, has stayed as had Kim Dong-chan, who may get national team chances if he continues scoring.


No team scored more than Daegu last season. The problem was that no team came close to conceding the same amount. Coach Byun Byung-joo has promised to stay true to his attacking instincts this season too.

Arrivals – Chinese defender Feng Xiaoteng comes highly recommended. Cameroon striker Emile Mbamba is another new face.

Departures: Lee Keun-ho is out of contract and in contact with many European clubs and midfielder Ha Dae-sung has joined Jeonbuk.

: The challenge for the new season is simple – on paper – continue scoring but don’t concede so much! Much depends on the new signings but it looks tough for Daegu to challenge the top six.

Chunnam Dragons

It is hard to imagine a great season ahead for Chunnam. The club won’t finish at the bottom and won’t finish in the top six.

Departures: Some solid K-league players like Kang Yong, Lee Sa-bik and Kim Tae-soo have left.

Arrivals: They have been replaced by other solid players such as Ahn Hyo-yeon and Kim Young-chul. Mario Rafael Rodríguez Rodríguez from Guatemala is there to provide the spark. Now the same can be said of Lee Chun-soo. The 2005 K-league player of the year has some reputation re-building to do.

Prospects: Mid-table mediocrity

Busan I’Park

A former powerhouse of Korean and Asian football, doesn’t look much closer to a return to those glory days. Busan just doesn’t have the cash to compete.

Departures: Old hands like Ahn Jung-hwan, Do Hwa-sung and Seo Dong-myung have gone.

: Romulo and Park Jin-sub look to be decent signings.

Prospects: If young coach Hwang Sun-hong can use the experience of his first season then Busan could be in line for a better season – though it won’t be spectacular. The signing of Romulo from Jeju should add such creativity. Park Hee-do has a little more responsibility and needs to be able to handle that – if he can then busan could be OK.

Daejeon Citizen

What do you do when the main source of your creativity retires and you don’t have the money to replace him? Ko Jong-soo has retired and there doesn’t seem to be anybody else to step into his shoes.

Departures: Ko Jong-soo and Lee Dong-won will be missed.

Prospects: Coach Kim Ho is going to need all his experience and knowhow to stop 2009 being a very tough year for Daejeon.

Gwangju Sangmu

Every season is tough for the military club which has to deal with losing half its team every season.

Arrivals: This season’s big name is former international Choi Sung-kuk who arrives from Seongnam.

Prospects: For the south-western club, any position that isn’t bottom is a success.

Gangwon FC

The K-league’s 15th team are looking forward to their first season.

Arrivals: Lee Eul-young, Chung Kyung-ho, Masashi Oguro

: Who can say how a new team will do? On the face of it, Gangwon had brought in some experience to go with the younger guys. Coach Choi Soon-ho will be looking to show he can impress in the top league after doing well with second-tier side Ulsan Mipo.

Copyright: John Duerden &

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