The race to win the top individual award in South Korean pro football is heating up with a top-scoring Brazilian striker and skillful midfielder for the league champions emerging as the top two candidates.
The 2017 K League Classic title went to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors last week with two matches remaining, but individual honors are still up for grabs. The K League is scheduled to announce its award winners on Nov. 20.
The MVP is determined by votes from local football reporters. After the 12 K League Classic clubs put forward one player each, the league will narrow down the list to three candidates.
|In this file photo taken on Oct. 21, Suwon Samsung Bluewings striker Johnathan Aparecido da Silva celebrates after scoring a goal against FC Seoul in the K League Classic match at Seoul World Cup Stadium in Seoul. (Yonhap)|
Among the MVP candidates listed by the clubs, Suwon Samsung Bluewings striker Johnathan Aparecido da Silva is certain to be one of the top three candidates. The 27-year-old Brazilian is well on his way to winning the scoring title after netting 22 goals in 36 matches, four ahead of Pohang Steelers' Yang Dong-hyun and FC Seoul's Dejan Damjanovic.
Since the K League started in 1983, the top scorer has claimed the MVP award four times. Last year, Jung Jo-gook with Gwangju FC was named the league MVP after claiming the scoring title.
Johnathan, as he's commonly known, won the Player of the Match honor 10 times this season, the most in the league. He was also selected to the Team of the Week 11 times. If Johnathan wins the MVP, he will be the first player to receive the top honors from both the first and second division. He was the MVP of the second-tier K League Challenge for the 2015 season after winning the scoring title with Daegu FC.
Johnathan will very likely compete for the MVP award with Lee Jae-sung, who led his club Jeonbuk to their fifth league title last week. The 25-year-old midfielder, in his fourth season with Jeonbuk, has so far scored seven goals and bagged nine assists in 26 matches. Although his numbers may not be too impressive, pundits say he is someone who makes more contributions to his club than what statistics show.
Lee, considered an engine of Jeonbuk's midfield, also scored the winning goal against No. 2-ranked Jeju United in the title-clinching match last Sunday.
Other MVP contenders from upper group teams in the split system are Jeju defender and captain Oh Ban-suk, Ulsan Hyundai's Croatian attacker Mislav Orsic, FC Seoul midfielder and current assists leader Yun Il-lok, and Gangwon FC forward Lee Keun-ho.
Among MVP candidates from lower group teams, Pohang's Yang, who has 18 goals, and Sangju Sangmu forward Joo Min-kyu, who has 15 goals and six assists, stand out, but their team's mediocre seasons may affect their chances. (Yonhap)