FC Seoul, six-time K League 1 champions, barely avoided relegation to the second division last year. After finishing 11th, they beat K League 2 club Busan IPark in a playoff to remain in the top flight of South Korean football.
Choi, who rejoined Seoul in October following a seasonlong stint with Chinese side Jiangsu Suning, did manage to save his old club from relegation, but the performance of the club clearly wasn't what the fans expected from him.
|FC Seoul head coach Choi Yong-soo poses for a photo at his club`s training facility in Guri, Gyeongi Province, on Feb. 21, 2019. (Yonhap)|
For the 2019 season, Choi said he has both expectations and concerns.
"I'm sure every coach would feel the same," Choi said ahead of training at Seoul's clubhouse in Guri, Gyeongi Province. "No team starts the season in a perfect condition. That's why I feel worried, but I'm also thrilled because you never know what will happen."
Choi said he and his players learned a lot from last season.
"The players have experienced that things can go wrong when they prepare poorly," he said. "We should never think that last season's situation is something that (can only) happen in the past."
Choi is considered one of the greatest coaches Seoul has had.
Under Choi's watch, Seoul did not miss an Asian Football Confederation Champions League appearance.
Seoul were runners-up at the top continental club tournament in
2013 and Choi won the AFC Coach of the Year award that year. He also led Seoul to the league title in 2012 and the Korea Football Association Cup title in 2015.
Choi said he feels he has a responsibility to restore Seoul's glory and reputation.
"When I returned to the club last year, there were many things to fix," he said. "This is something that I decided to do, so that's why I enjoy every process. Because of our big goal, the players are also following me well."
Seoul had the league's weakest offense last season with 40 goals in 38 matches. To solve that problem, Choi recently brought in former Serbian league top scorer Aleksandar Pesic and Uzbek international Ikromjon Alibaev.
"I believe talent doesn't lie, and I don't expect them to have a perfect performance after one or two matches," he said. "I just hope they do not rush."
Choi said his first goal for the 2019 season is to help Seoul play in the upper group under the split system. South Korea's K League 1 operates a split system in which the 12 teams are divided into two groups after 33 matches and play five more matches within their respective groups.
"I hate losing, but even if we lose, I want to play a very dynamic game," he said. "I hope fans can enjoy it and watch our young players grow and give them lots of support." (Yonhap)