Edu Returns to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors
Having substantially helped the Champions for six months last season before attracting the wandering eyes of the Chinese Leagues, Edu will be looking to link up with some of his old teammates in Lee Jae-sung, Lee Dong-gook and Leonardo (who may soon be on the way out) who helped propel him to such heights in the fans' hearts within such a short spell. The striker will look to take the foreign spot recently vacated by attacking midfielder and fellow country man Luiz as Jeonbuk look to push on into this season’s final straight.
The well-traveled striker makes a return to the K-League after a career that has spanned both the Chinese Super League and J-Leagues with an eye-catching strike rate. This is in addition to spending a considerable amount of his earlier years in the Bundesliga where he often struggled to find the net as frequent.
First leaving the Bundesliga for Korea back in 2007, Edu spent three successful seasons at Suwon Bluewings, which saw him lift the league title and cup. It was originally thought he would return to his first Korean club, but with the Bluewings recently signing another Brazilian in Johnathan, he would have struggled to have found game time at the Big Bird.
After his stint at the Bluewings, Edu returned back to Germany to ply his trade at Schalke 04, but his goal scoring record continued to never meet the heights it reached in Suwon. In 2013, he returned to Asia to play in the Chinese Super League, his record of 14 league goals in 33 appearances was enough to send him to FC Tokyo, and then Jeonbuk thereafter at the start of 2015.
Edu only stayed in Jeonju for half a season last year, signing in the winter and departing in the summer. During his brief spell at the club, the then 33 year-old made 29 appearances for the champions across all competitions, scoring 15 goals in the process. Combined with the constant goal-threat that is Lee Dong-gook, the ageing pairing defied the pre-season “Old People’s Home” jibes to propel Jeonbuk into first place early on, a position they held until the season closed despite results wavering at the end.
After swapping Jeonbuk for a then second division Hebei China Fortune, he managed a further 15 league appearances as the 2015 Chinese season drew to a close. He scored 12 goals. His phenomenal strike rate in a time when Jeonbuk’s strikers are now mostly misfiring must have been convincing enough for Choi Kang-hee to re-sign the Brazilian. The aim is to put an end to Jeonbuk’s previously stuttering form and ensure they cross this season’s finish line leading the pack, despite already leading by 11 points. It could also be to limit the damage from a potential points deduction when the result of the match-fixing allegations come to light, and make sure Jeonbuk still qualify for the ACL.
While some say never go back, Edu could offer the champions what recent marquee signing Kim Shin-wook is not. It would also remove the goalscoring burden from Lee Dong-gook’s shoulders, with the team often struggling to convert without his presence on the pitch. Seeing as Kim Shin-wook’s arrival at the club though was met with such fanfare, it could be considered a shame to give up on him so early.
Given the manager’s occasional penchant for an archaic hoof tactic though, it may even be possible we see both Edu and Wookie squeezed into the starting eleven, with the attractiveness of play suffering in favour for ensuring the ball gets over the goal line.
Furthermore, Jeonbuk have benefitted through Lee Dong-gook’s injury by removing the lack of pace from attack and replacing him with Lee Jong-ho who has proved a revelation by quickly dropping back and allowing the likes of Kim Bo-kyung and Lee Jae-sung to push ahead, creating a fast countering movement. The fear would be that shoehorning a slower striker into this side may decrease the tempo of the whole team further and undo the hard work of half a season.
Regardless of the negatives though, Edu does have a strong track record as a goalscorer in Asia. I sincerely hope to be proved wrong by his return to the club. Jeonbuk have rarely won by more than the single goal this season. When this is combined with this year’s added importance on goals scored, perhaps the manager is favouring some practicality. I guess we shall see over the upcoming games.
Welcome back to the K-League, Edu!
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