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2016 K-League Best XI

With the 2016 K-League season officially in the books Football Radar's Miro Tramita stops by once again to deliver his Best XI. 

There was little doubt about some of them while others had decent competition to make it, but I tried to be as unbiased as possible and consider how players did during the entire season (or half season in two instances). As most of the regular followers probably noticed, defending isn't great in the K League, so it wasn't easy to pick defensive players who did really well. This lack of defensive quality obviously means there's abundance of clever attacking players who did well in exploiting that, so it wasn't easy to pick one attacking and creative player over the other.  Anyway, here's my best XI in a 4-3-3 formation.


GK + Defense

GK - Kwon Sun-tae (Jeonbuk)
No question here in 2016 again. Kwon is the most reliable shot stopper in the league and I can only recall one howler he had all season. It wasn't even a howler, Suwon FC´s Kim Han-Won simply caught him off of his line with a long range free kick. Jeonbuk only conceded 40 goals, the lowest number in the league and this mainly comes down to Kwon's saves rather than decent back line in front of him.

RB - Choi Hyo-jin (Jeonnam) 
Choi was very solid throughout the season, providing great energy down the right flank. He was really good going forward and that often made up for his defensive mistakes.



CB - Matej Jonjić (Incheon)
The Croatian had a really poor start to the season, looking nothing like the rock he was in 2015. But he improved a lot as his side fought relegation and his quality helped the club avoid even entering the playoffs.


CB - Tomislav Mrčela (Jeonnam)
The Aussie with Croatian roots joined the Dragons in the summer and slotted into the back 3 really well with his physicality and ability to bring the ball forward and start attacks.



LB- Ko Kwang-min (Seoul)
A really good season from versatile and energetic wide player who did well under both managers this year. In the 3-5-2 as wing back or back four as full back, he played well enough to earn his first called up for Korean National Team.


Midfielders

DM - Olivier Bonnes (Gwangju)
Probably the most surprising member of my XI, I was really impressed by the Nigerien since his arrival in the summer. His physicality suits K-League perfectly and he keeps his game simple - winning the ball and passing it to more creative teammates. Not many players were so impressive in winning the ball and even if they won it, they often gave it away by trying to do too much.

CM - Lee Jae-sung (Jeonbuk)
I've decided to select just one of Jeonbuk's CMs for my XI and Lee gets the nod. I felt he had slightly more influence than Kimbo in his first season in K-League. It was another strong season from Lee, let's hope he either stays at the top of K-League or goes to Europe.


AM - Song Jin-hyung (Jeju)
Song continued his fine form from 2015 this season and was one of the key players for Jeju until he shockingly left the club for Middle East in September. Luckily, Jeju managed to replace his goals and great counter attacking runs to make AFC Champions League. However, I still miss his direct runs and eye for key pass or goal.

Forwards

RW - Lopes (Jeonbuk)
It wasn't really a surprise a bigger club went after him following a superb 2015 season with Jeju, but it was a tough start to his Jeonbuk career. I expected him to be one of the best signings for the club, but Choi KH took until June to realise that. Lopes was just another player rotating in his first few months, but his quality and devastating runs eventually convinced Choi he needed to play him whenever he could. It was a joy to watch the Brazilian once again this season so I really hope he enjoys K League and will stick around for a few more seasons.

LW - Leonardo (Jeonbuk)
Lopes was superb on the right wing, but Jeonbuk had another outstanding Brazilian on the other flank too. Despite being at the club since 2012, Leonardo's position in the team was even more difficult than his compatriots. He's been great whenever on the pitch, but Choi seemed very keen to rotate him with summer arrival Ko Mu-yeol. Thankfully, he eventually realised the gap between the two and Leo was given consistent run of games and never disappointed. Being voted player of the season is just the cherry on the top following another fine season in Korea.


ATT - Jung Jo-gook (Gwangju) 
Fair to say very few could have expected the 32 year old to have such a strong season following his departure from FC Seoul, but Jung has been sensational at Gwangju netting 20 of their 41 goals! To manage 20 goals playing for this fairly small club just adds to his legacy. I was very pleased to see him being voted MVP of the season and I'm really curious whether he can come close to this number in 2017.

Unfortunately, there's only place for XI names in the best XI, but there were some other players who came very close to get in. Here they are: 

GK + DefenseMidfieldAttack
Kim Dong-jun (Seongnam)Lee Yong (Sangju/Ulsan)
Hong Chul (Suwon BW)
Osmar (Seoul)
Kim Bo-kyung (Jeonbuk)
Ahn Hyun-beom (Jeju)
Kim Seung-Jun (Ulsan)
Thiago (Seongnam)
Jonathan (Suwon BW)
Marcelo (Jeju)
Jair (Jeonnam)
Adriano (Seoul)
Dejan (Seoul)


How do these players stack up for you? See someone missing? We'd love to hear your thoughts and see your Best XI in the comments below!

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