Dejan Damjanovic named MVP

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Dejan Damjanovic named MVP

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Montenegrin striker Dejan Damjanovic of FC Seoul, left, FC Seoul coach Choi Yong-soo and Pohang Steelers midfielder Lee Myung-joo celebrate after receiving the MVP, the coach of the year and rookie of the year awards, respectively, during the 2012 K-League Awards Ceremony in Seoul yesterday. [YONHAP]


Montenegrin striker Dejan Damjanovic yesterday became the first foreign player in five years to be named MVP of the K-League after he led his club FC Seoul to the top of Korea’s professional football league in a record-breaking season that wrapped up on Sunday.

Damjanovic received the honor during the K-League awards ceremony held in Hongeun-dong, northern Seoul, yesterday. He garnered 92 out of 116 votes, far more than Lee Dong-gook of the Jeonbuk Motors, who received 19.

The 31-year-old scored 31 goals in 44 games this season, contributing to the team’s record-shattering finish. Seoul hoarded 96 points this season, the most ever in the league’s history. The club lost only six games and finished a whopping 17 points in front of the second-place Motors.

Damjanovic’s 31 goals is also a new league best, passing the previous record of 28 held by Kim Do-hoon of Seongnam Chunma in 2003.The Montenegrin has now earned the scoring title for two straight years after 24 goals during the 2011 season.

It was the first MVP award for the striker, who has never failed to reach a double-digit scoring total since he began his six-year stint in the K-League.

Last year, Lee was named the league’s MVP after scoring 15 goals with the Motors, who won the league.

With 122 goals in the K-League, the most career goals by a foreigner, Damjanovic is only the third among several hundreds of foreign imports to win the MVP after two Brazilians - Andre Luiz Tavares and Nadson Rodrigues de Souza. Tavares won the award with the Pohang Steelers in 2007 and Nadson with the Suwon Bluewings in 2004.

Sa?a Drakulic of Serbia, who held the previous career goal record for a foreigner at 104 through 2003, was never named the league’s MVP. Critics said the voting panel tends to be biased toward domestic players. The votes are cast by a group of football journalists selected by the K-League.

This year, however, there was no doubt the honor should be bestowed on Damjanovic, who also won three other awards during the yesterday’s ceremony, including the FAN-tastic Player award, which is given to the player who receives the most votes cast by fans.

His Colombian teammate Mauricio Uribe, or Molina as he is known in Korea, won the most assists award with 19 assists in 2012.

FC Seoul swept many other awards with coach Choi Yong-soo receiving the coach of the year award.

Choi received 78 votes with Kim Ho-gon of Ulan Hyundai, who led the club to the Asian Football Confederation Champions League title last month, receiving 29.

Choi, 39, a former franchise star, became the first in the K-League to win the rookie of the year award, the MVP award and the coach of the year award with the same team. He received the rookie of the year award in 1994 with the Anyang LG Cheetahs, the predecessor of FC Seoul, and led the Cheetahs to the K-League title in 2000. He retired as an athlete with FC Seoul in 2006 and led the team to a third-place finish last season as an acting head coach. He was promoted to head coach before the 2012 season.

FC Seoul also swept five of the Best 11 awards, which went to Damjanovic, Uribe, midfielder Ha Dae-sung, defender Adilson Dos Santos of Brazil and goalkeeper Lee Yong-dae.

Lee Keun-ho of the Tigers, who won the AFC player of the year award last week, was named one of the Best 11 in the midfield. Lee Dong-gook was named one of the Best 11 up front.

Lee Myung-joo, a midfielder for the Pohang Steelers, won the rookie of the year award for his stellar performance. The 22-year-old scored five goals and had six assists, helping the team win the FA Cup and finish third in the league.

The Steelers routed the Suwon Bluewings 3-0 in the season-ending game on Sunday, reducing the gap with the Motors to just two points, but the Bluewings had reason to smile with their fourth-place finish.

The Bluewings finished on 73 points, earning the only berth left to play at the AFC Champions League next year. That leaves Ulsan, the fifth-place on 68 points, no chance to defend its title at the next year’s ACL.

By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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