What's it like to play for Choi Yong-soo? | OneFootball

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K League United

·3 April 2022

What's it like to play for Choi Yong-soo?

Article image:What's it like to play for Choi Yong-soo?

Osmar: "It was much more leadership or motivational speeches than tactical things. Unless, obviously, we needed something specific for that game. Or maybe his assistant or his analyst came and told him something was happening and then he pointed out some slight changes. But he believed a lot more in  the motivational speeches and making the players confident and trust and that we are better, that we are going to win."

Osmar also echoed Dejan's sentiments that there was always a reason for the things that Choi did or said: "He always had a plan, where I could feel that his words, were always for a reason, he was never speaking in vain. And even though that team was winning, and he got a bit angry, there was a reason for that, you know, maybe (to show) it was not the place to relax too much. There was a reason always, that's, that's what I could feel and that's what I liked about him. You can never relax at any point with him, which made the team usually better."

Man Management

The key for Choi, it seems, certainly in times of success, was not so much about how he approached games from a tactical perspective, but how he was able to motivate top players and keey 20-odd egos in check at the same time.

Dejan: "You need man-management. You need somebody who can control 25 players. You need somebody who can balance the team make everyone happy, make everybody happy on training after training on the game after the game playing not playing. who you need to expect more you need to push them more with who you need to approach different if somebody is like child, somebody have mentality like this, somebody have tough character. Men management is everything in football, especially in big teams. And he was in victim that time. For many years. Sepsis always was one of the best teams in in Asia, not only Korea, so he was smart. He knew it. We are ready. We don't need to do any tactical things."

Montenegro international strikerDino Islamović who currently plays for Choi, says that expects a lot from his players:

"Well, I think he's demanding, very demanding. For me, I like it. I think he's honest. He will give you credit if you do well and I think he will tell you that if you're not doing well. "

Choi watches on as FC Seoul lose 6-0 to Daegu FC, 14th June 2020

Osmar: "He knew his best point. I think he was controlling the egos of every player, that was his best point. And I think it's not easy, you know, to control a group of 20 or 30 players, and to have them all under control. So difficult."

ButAlibaev wasn't too impressed with Choi's man-management style: "He doesn't like to speak one on one with players. He never really spoke to me. Just once in nearly two years. I asked why I wasn't playing. I played against Gangwon but then wasn't in the 18 after. He told me I wasn't in good condition but that was just one time. Man management is not his strongest side."

Choi is perhaps known for liking foreign players, something whichOsmar agrees with but the standards are set very high:

"As a foreigner, you have to give him everything. He signed you, he chose you so you have to not come here and just look after yourself. You have to give him back all this. Once you do that, he will give you everything and you will feel respected and not left alone, like a part of a team."

Dejan: "He's the guy who... can one of the guys, not too many in Korea, I must say you know, I was long time there and some of them will agree some not, but man everybody knows that Korean coaches have a lot of problems with foreigners - that's true. They cannot use well the foreigners especially foreigners with a tough character and he's the guy who can control that, he's very smart. He knows how to balance the team, he knows who is playing for the team, who is doing against him. Just smart, he's very smart and every conversation, every decision, in every situation he's doing well, you know?"

Tactics & Philosophy

Dino Islamović is praiseful of Choi's tactical approach to games:

"Tactically, I think, he is very good. Like what I said before about the K League that, tactically, can get better, I think he's one of them that is very good tactically. I think he's also been a striker so I'm trying to learn things from him also."

Alibaev, meanwhile, says that Choi has his own style and likes to stick to it:

"He likes the formation 5-3-2. I like this too. Even if we lose he doesn't change, even after the 6-0 against Daegu. He has his own identity and style. When Kim Ho-young came in to help him things changed a bit but before that he didn't change much."

Article image:What's it like to play for Choi Yong-soo?

Alibaev spent 18 months under Choi Yong-soo from 2019-2020

Dejan believes that, especially during the 2012 season when FC Seoul went onto win the league under Choi, he didn't need to say to much tactically. The team was ready-made to be successful:

"When you have good team, when you are in good team, great team, big team in any country, generally, the great players are ready to play to win something, you didn't bring them now to work with them (for a) couple of years to make some of them, to sell them or something like this. You are built to win something, you pay that players a lot. So you bring done fixed players ready for (the) game. That time you don't need coach tactical, unbelievable.

"When you have players like for example in Seoul that that couple of years, what you need to do what you need to say to Ha Dae-sung, Adilson, Molina, Molina, Dejan, and (Go) Yo-han, (Koh) Myong-jin, I don't know, (Park) Chu-young, I will forget some of them. They were ready. They were ready. They already have titles behind them, (were) great finalists, (had) great career (with) national teams, you don't need to coach them, you need man-management, you need to make everybody together happy. And he was great in this and I'm sure he's still doing that."

Osmar: "His style of play, he also changed. I think, at the beginning when he needed wins, he was building his own career as a head coach, he was a little bit more conservative then he started changing. He let the players have more freedom or more things that we wanted. He trusted more in the players but the key here is he knew who to trust. Usually, we are 20 or 30 players, you cannot trust everybody to do what they want - there would be anarchy. But he always had two or three players who he trusted and give them more freedom, even to lead the team on the pitch and do different things that were not planned or trained. But he kind of changed that way in order to get better results and play more attractive football."

Choi's FC Seoul departure

Choi Yong-soo had won the K League title in 2012 in his first season as a manager, reached the ACL Final in 2013 and lost on the ever-cruel away goals rule, won the FA Cup in 2015, and was the man who, in essence, built the team which pipped Jeonbuk to the title in 2016. He left in the summer of 2016 to join Jiangsu Sunning in the Chinese Super League, spent a year there before returning to Seoul in 2018.

He eventually saved them from relegation that year and guided the fallen giants back to the AFC Champions League after finishing third in 2019. But, Seoul limped their way into third place with a lacklustre end to the season. The team's form wasn't great in the first half of 2020 either and Choi's time at the club came to an end in the summer.

The 6-0 away loss to Daegu FC was the tipping point and was a game which seemed to sum FC Seoul up, a combination of misfortune and off-the-field decisions coming back to haunt them. Seoul scored not one but two own goals that evening and then Dejan came off the bench to fire in the sixth, at a time when the club had decided not to re-sign him when he had become available after leaving Suwon Bluewings.

Although Dejan scored his first goal for Daegu that night, he doesn't look back on that game with any fondness whatsoever:

"I was trying to forget that game you know even I was, you know, I enjoyed Daegu but I hate to play against FC Seoul, you know my feeling with FC Seoul and I saw that they collapse, they struggle, they lose the spirit. That's the worst when players start thinking they cannot win, they give up before the game. You feel that when you are on the game, I see that they give up. And it (was a) really tough moment for him (Choi) and I know he was you know, furious, furious after this game and I scored a goal, of course, I'm professional and if I could score I would score three that game, just to be clear. But I don't like to see Seoul in that kind of situation.

"And after the game I was you know waiting, waiting for coach to see him. You know because I know even if he's furious, I want to see (him), I want to speak with him just for one minute. And it was tough. It was tough. I never saw him in that kind of that tough situation like that, that moment with FC Seoul, they were like losing couple of games, concede like 15 goals in three or four games. It was unbelievable, man. I don't know what happened."

Osmar looks back on that particular period with regret as he was out injured and unable to help on the pitch:

"It was strange, because he was like 'Seoul guy', it was a good match to this club. And it was difficult for me as well, because I was injured for his last five or six games, so I couldn't be there and help. I don't know if that would that would have changed anything or not. But yeah, I was kind of sorry to see him go while I was out injured."

Alibaev, of course, played in that 6-0 loss to Daegu and admits he wasn't surprised that Choi left the club:

"I was not surprised. We felt it. Our results were very bad. In the Daegu game, we were 3-0 down at halftime. He just said that we needed to show up and score - normal things. After the game he didn't shout, just ignored. Training was even harder than normal after and he didn't even speak to the players."

Reaction to Choi joining Gangwon

Choi Yong-soo left FC Seoul in the summer of 2020 but returned to management with Gangwon FC in the winter of 2021, helping the Bears survive relegation. in a situation that was almost identical to when he rejoined FC Seoul.

When speaking to KLU last summer, Dejan said he believed that Choi will be back "at some point" and that he wouldn't just choose "any club", it would have to be a project that is worth his while. Dejan believes now that Gangwon is a good match:

"Everybody knows the Lee Young-pyo is there as sports director, he's a good friend. And probably they have a great plan and some, some maybe three or five-year plan, how to bring Gangwon to the ACL. I'm sure that he think really good before he chose the team. Like I said, he's very smart person. He's not making a decision without thinking well before so I'm sure that he prepared everything and him and sporting director Lee Young-pyo for sure their good, good club plan how to bring Gangwon in ACL and to be competitive in this league."

Osmar: "I was a bit surprised, to be honest. But now that I see the way they play, the system they play it is a kind of good match."

Play for him again?

Taking everything into consideration, would Dejan, Osmar, and Alibaev play for Choi Yong-soo again? Alibaev said he would, despite his time under Choi ending on a bit of a sour note:

"I would play for him again. He is a good coach and a good person. I'd be very happy to play for him and I would like to come back to K League."

Dejan: "If he called me and if he think that I can help him and he asked me like whatever he need to tell me honestly, no faking, no nice stories, you can just tell me what you need. Can I help you? If I can help you, I will help you. If I cannot. I cannot say (to) him (I can), I will be very honest to him. If I think I can help him, I will come. If I cannot, I will say sorry I cannot help you like before. I don't want to make you any problem. So, you know with him I had always really always understanding, this honest relationship. So, whatever he needs, whatever he wants to ask, with me, it's very easy. Maybe not even maybe playing football, maybe tomorrow we can work together you never know. But with him, I am very, very easy to communicate."

Osmar: "Depend on many things because my situation now is different. I have to also think about the family about the kids is nice. I cannot say yes or no, it's It depends. Depends on the situation when the time comes if the situation is doable or not. I would say but I cannot say now yes or no."

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