Leonardo Leaves Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors
|(Photo Credit: Hyundai-MotorsFC.com)|
After nearly five years in the K-League, fan favourite and key player Leonardo has left Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors to further his career in the Middle East, having signed a deal with Al Jazira in the UAE Arabian Gulf league for an undisclosed fee
Signing for Jeonbuk in the summer of 2012 from AEK Athens, Leonardo made an instant impact at his new home, scoring five goals in 17 appearances and assisting the club in claiming the runner-up spot in the league. 2013 saw him build on this, but the club underperformed and was only able to achieve a 3rd place position.
The Season of 2014 saw Leonardo feature less significantly under the returning Choi Kang-hee, but he still managed to score eight goals across all competitions in a season in which Jeonbuk ran away with the league title. 2015 then saw Jeonbuk lift the title again, with the Brazilian winger’s contribution being far more notable, scoring 12 goals in all competitions.
2016 however has seen the player improve his performance even further with an impressive number of game-changing displays. Leonardo has made an appearance in nearly all of Jeonbuk’s matches this season across all competitions. He has managed to score twelve league goals this year in the process, leading the club’s scoring charts, along with a goal in the FA Cup and ten memorable efforts in the AFC Champions League with his highlight no doubt being the two he scored in the final to hand Jeonbuk the needed advantage over Al Ain. His commanding displays saw him voted our K-League Player of the Year for 2016.
Whilst constantly proving himself pivotal to the set up, the actions of the manager have sometimes made it look otherwise. There may be no rift between the pair, but he made no starts in the Club World Cup, a competition in which his previous efforts had heavily contributed to Jeonbuk's participation there in the first place. Whilst he waived away speculation from China as rumours swirled of his discontent, the increasing noise coming from the Middle East proved too difficult to ignore, eventually resulting in his departure from Korea on New Year's Eve.
For the supporters, it is very sad to see Leonardo leave yet understandable given he has likely achieved everything he can with the club. His goals and performances have often proved to be the spark to ignite Jeonbuk into life when they need it most. His prolonged stay at the club has further endeared him to the fan base, a feeling that his been reciprocated numerous times by the player's actions and attitude on and off the pitch. He is also held in high regard by his teammates, and his absence will no doubt be felt by the club.OFFICIAL | Jeonbuk Hyundai winger Leonardo has signed with Al Jazira in UAE. #kleague pic.twitter.com/nsOwVGXndd— Korea Football News (@KORFootballNews) December 31, 2016
Jeonbuk will now be seeking a replacement for the winger, with rumours already circulating about who is on the club's shortlist. One thing is for sure though, it will be very difficult to find a player of the same calibre with the same level of commitment that Leonardo has demonstrated during his tenure in Jeonju.