Stevica Ristić Retiring From Jeonnam Dragons
In the past seven days we've seen Seoul E-Land sack manager Martin Rennie and FC Seoul lose their head coach Choi Yong-soo to the Chinese Super League's Jiangsu Suning. Now there's another departure in K-League: Stevica Ristić. Just a single season after tying for the most team goals, the man better known as Stevo is expected to retire this week and end his playing career at home against Incheon this Saturday. Though this hasn't been confirmed at this time, Naver Sports is reporting a mutual agreement between the Jeonnam Dragons and Stevo to terminate his current contract and allow both sides to move on.
The move comes as a bit of a surprise, but not exactly a shock. Stevo has spent the last few months tied to the bench after getting off to a surprisingly slow start and has only netted twice in 14 appearances this year. After a strong 2015 campaign the offense was formed around Stevo as a target striker that can hold up the ball and convert chances. Unfortunately neither has come with great frequency this year. A source with knowledge of the situation said Stevo felt "it was physically too much for him this season," which is little surprise for a 13 year vet who originally started his career at FK Sileks in the Macedonian First League back in 2003.
Stevo leaves K-League as one of its more beloved foreigners who won over fans at Jeonbuk, Pohang, especially Suwon, and finally with Jeonnam. His trophy case includes the 2008 Korean FA Cup, the 2009 League Cup and the 2009 AFC Champions League title (all with Pohang). As a man who's quite literally won everything there is to win in this league he'll certainly be going out with his head held high in what's presumed to be his last appearance this Saturday in the Dragons home match against last place Incheon.
Check out my interview with the K-League legend from last summer for a bit of background on who the league is saying goodbye to. Truly enjoyed chatting with him about football in Asia, what it's like being a foreign player here in Korea, and what it means to be a professional off the field. His leadership will be missed.