Uzbek club lures Pohang stars Stevo and Denilson

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Uzbek club lures Pohang stars Stevo and Denilson

Two integral parts of the high-scoring Pohang Steelers have parted ways with the 2009 AFC Champions League winner and are headed for the same destination: Uzbekistan.

Denilson, 33, and Stevo Ristic, 27, have signed with FC Bunyodkor, an Uzbek League club based in Tashkent, the capital of the Central Asian country.

According to an anonymous source yesterday, the two players received identical contracts from the 2009 Uzbek League winners. “Denilson and Stevo each reached two-year deals worth $2.6 million with Bunyodkor,” the source said.

The two players have been included in Bunyodkor’s overseas training camp roster in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Denilson and Stevo will undergo medical checkups in Dubai before finalizing the contract, the source said.

Led by former Brazil national team and Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, Bunyodkor lost in the quarterfinals of the 2009 AFC Champions League to Pohang on an aggregate score of 5-4. Denilson played a key role during Pohang’s impressive run in the tourney, and Scolari took notice. Pohang had been keen on trying to re-sign the Brazilian forward, but in the end the Uzbek club’s lucrative contract was too much for Pohang to match.

Having joined Daejeon Citizen in 2006, Denilson signed on with the Steelers in 2008. During his four years in the K-League, Denilson recorded 44 goals and 17 assists in 107 league matches. He scored eight goals and three assists in 23 K-League matches last season.

Joining Denilson will be Macedonian national Stevo. The forward who notched seven goals and four assists in 20 league matches grew disconcerted over his playing time and requested a release from the team. For this reason, Stevo was excluded from the FIFA Club World Cup roster in December. Stevo was released by Pohang and, as a result, was also freed from his contractual obligations with Jeonbuk Motors, who had loaned the player to Pohang. Stevo had been looking to sign on with a European club as a free agent. He is said to have received an offer from Bunyodkor through Denilson.

Stevo joined Jeonbuk in 2007 and moved to the Steelers on a loan in 2008. With good size - 188 centimeters (6 feet 2 inches) tall - and power, Stevo notched 33 goals and 15 assists in 81 K-League matches.

At the same time, the Steelers kicked off their winter training camp under their new manager Waldemar Lemos of Brazil, who replaced Sergio Farias in December. Having lost Denilson and Stevo to Bunyodkor and Choi Hyo-jin to FC Seoul, Pohang will now have some big holes to fill. The Steelers currently have nine rookies on their winter training camp roster.

By Kim Jong-ryok, Jason Kim []
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