The Korea Herald


Ex-Premier Leaguers hoping to take K League by storm in 2020

By Yonhap

Published : May 4, 2020 - 10:07

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(Yonhap) (Yonhap)

Of the many new faces who have newly arrived or switched kits for the 2020 K League 1 season, former Premier League player Lee Chung-yong may just find himself under the brightest spotlight.

For one, the new Ulsan Hyundai FC midfielder brings impressive credentials -- he has 89 caps and played in two FIFA World Cups, with a solid run in the Premier League along the way. Plus, before even playing a match for his new club, Lee immediately became the new face of a team trying to shake off a devastating finish to the 2019 season.

Ulsan led the eventual champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors by three points heading into the season finale against the Pohang Steelers. Ulsan only needed a draw for their first title since 2005 but lost the match 4-1. Jeonbuk beat Gangwon FC 1-0 and pulled into a tie in points with Ulsan at 79-79 and ended up taking the championship thanks to the goals scored tiebreak edge.

Over the offseason, Ulsan lost their best player from 2019, the league MVP Kim Bo-kyung, to Jeonbuk, with salt getting rubbed hard into their wounds. But the team fully in the "win now" mode signed Lee, along with national team goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo and crafty midfielder Yoon Bitgaram.

Kim Bo-kyung, a former Premier Leaguer himself, would probably like to trade that MVP trophy for a championship ring, and he'll have a chance to win a title with Jeonbuk this year.

It'll be his second tour of duty for Jeonbuk, for whom he spent 2016 and then half of 2017. The playmaking midfielder scored a career-high 13 goals last season, after never scoring more than four in any previous K League seasons. On a deep Jeonbuk squad, Kim likely won't have to exert himself on the goal scoring department, and his passing skills should come in handy for the emerging, 22-year-old striker Cho Gue-sung.

Cho ranked third in the K League 2 last year with 14 goals for FC Anyang and was named to the K League 2 Best XI too. Jeonbuk are hoping Cho will succeed the 41-year-old striker Lee Dong-gook as the next great goal scorer.

Speaking of goal scoring, Dejan Damjanovic, a three-time scoring champion, will look for redemption in a new uniform with Daegu FC.

The 2012 league MVP was limited to just three goals for Suwon Samsung Bluewings in 2019. He had scored in double figures in the past 10 K League seasons, a streak that saw him become the first to win three consecutive scoring titles from 2011 to 2013 for FC Seoul.

The well-traveled Montenegrin was a forgotten man for Suwon last season. At 38, Damjanovic may no longer be the deadly striker that he once was, but he still has a nose for the goal. (Yonhap)