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Outgoing FC Seoul coach says he wants new challenge in China

Outgoing FC Seoul boss Choi Yong-soo said Wednesday he decided to join the Chinese club Jiangsu Suning because he wanted a new challenge by facing top-class football coaches.

FC Seoul announced Tuesday that Choi will leave the five-time K League Classic champions for Jiangsu in the Chinese Super League.
(Yonhap)
(Yonhap)

Before his last match as Seoul head coach Wednesday, Choi told reporters that he accepted Jiangsu's offer because he didn't want to miss another opportunity.

Last July, Choi turned down Jiangsu's lucrative offer of a reported 5 billion won (US$4.3 million) for two and a half years.

"I was a little baffled when I first received the offer a year ago, but now I feel more comfortable about it," he said before FC Seoul took on second-tier Ansan Mugunghwa FC in the round of 16 at the Korean Football Association (FA) Cup. "I have always thought that I should go there one day."

In turning down last year's offer, Choi said he put loyalty ahead of money. But when asked why he is leaving the club now, the 42-year-old said Seoul are a stronger team than a year ago and he thought the club could do well without him this season. He added that he also wanted to test his ability against famous coaches like Luiz Felipe Scolari and Sven Goran Eriksson in China.

Scolari, the 2002 FIFA World Cup-winning coach for Brazil, is now managing Guangzhou Evergrand and Eriksson, the Swede who previously led England national team, is currently leading Shanghai SIPG.

"Last year, Seoul were struggling near the league cellar, but this year, the team is more stabilized with competitive players,"

Choi said. "I thought it'd be all right to take the challenge. I want to play interesting matches with world-class football coaches there."

Choi acknowledged there are fans who criticize him for leaving the club in the middle of the season, but promised he will contribute to improving South Korean football in the future. FC Seoul are currently in second place in the K League Classic with 30 points, one behind the two-time defending champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. They are also in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League quarterfinals, where they will face Shandong Luneng.

"I want to learn more and then help South Korean football," he said. "I don't think an opportunity like this comes easily. I should be thankful for having this opportunity."

Choi said he also wants to know why Jiangsu have offered him a contract. The Chinese outfit, which recently sacked Romanian head coach Dan Petrescu, have been one of the biggest shoppers in the world. Last offseason, they shelled out an Asian-record transfer fee of 50 million euros ($55 million) to acquire attacker Alex Teixeira from Ukraine's Shakhtar Donetsk, and another 32 million euros for former Chelsea midfielder Ramires. They also have one-time Manchester City striker Jo.

"I don't know if those stars will listen to my orders," Choi jokingly said. "I first have to find out the players'

characteristic and then think about the tactics."

Choi will become the fifth South Korean coach in the 16-team Chinese league, joining Hong Myung-bo of Hangzhou Greentown, Chang Woe-ryong of Chongqing Lifan, Lee Jang-soo of Changchun Yatai and Park Tae-ha of Yanbian Funde. All but Park signed in 2016.

Choi wished luck to his successor Hwang Sun-hong, who is expected to be on the bench at Seoul's home match against Seongnam FC on next Wednesday. Hwang, 47, coached Busan IPark from 2008 to 2010, and was at the helm of Pohang Steelers from 2011 to 2015. He achieved the rare double with Pohang in 2013 by winning both the K League Classic and the FA Cup.

"He has the experience and insight on how to utilize tactics," Choi said. "If he can communicate with the players and with no big injuries on the squad, he will be able to make big achievements for Seoul." (Yonhap)

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