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2020 Season Preview: Seongnam FC

Seongnam FC enjoyed a relatively comfortable return to the top division of KLeague last season, finishing 12 points above the drop zone and never looking in any real danger. There's been a shake-up in personnel over the extended winter break as Kim Nam-il's men aim for a push towards the top six.

Last Season

W- 12, D- 9, L, 17 (9th)

What Happened?

A lack of consistency reduced Seongnam's chances of a top-six finish last season only registering back to back wins in two spells last summer. Playing defensively on the road this cost them in terms of goal threat, mustering just two goals in their last seven outings away from home. Overall it could be considered a successful return to the top flight, retaining their status in KLeague 1 and only being comprehensively beaten once all season at the hands of Ulsan Hyundai. Fans at Tancheon will be hoping for a more entertaining style of play this season however, being the league's lowest goal scorers. Conceding less than third-placed FC Seoul, it's not hard to figure out how the Magpies set up tactically.

[LISTEN: Transfer Window Recap

Notable Moves


The instantly recognisable face of Kim Young-kwang will be in contention for a spot between the sticks in K1 again this season. The veteran goalkeeper was tempted to the Seoul E-Land project in 2015 but will return to the top division at 36. Another good character to have around the dressing room will be former Jeju United captain Kwon Soon-hyung after seven seasons on the island. With two older heads brought into the dressing room, Kim Nam-il has ensured there's plenty of top-flight experience.

Elsewhere on the pitch, Park Soo-il has moved north from Daejeon Hana Citizen after two seasons as a regular in the Purples' defence. He will be joined by Lim Sun-yeong released by Jeonbuk Hyundai and two arrivals from Japan in Yoo In-so and Yang Dong-hyeon from FC Tokyo and Avispa Fukuoka respectively. While picking up a runners-up accolade in the J-League last season, Yoo's opportunities were limited having only scored one goal for the capital club in a three-year spell. Yang enjoyed somewhat of a renaissance last season with a one-in-three goal ratio showing his Pohang Steelers form of 2017. Another player comfortably on the wrong side of 30, we could see a team full of know-all in terms of scrapping for points. After spending the majority of his career with Pakhtakor, a fruitful season with Uzbek league runners-up Lokomotiv Tashkent earned diminutive playmaker Jamshid Iskanderov a move to Korea this winter. Along with Tomislav Kis up top, the national team regular will be vital in the Magpies success should he settle into the league well.

There have also been plenty leaving the club this transfer window with Lim Choi-min switching to fellow top division side Gangwon. Jo Sung-jun and Park Won-jae will both ply their trade at Jeju United this season, while defender Mun Ji-hwan, who enjoyed a breakthrough year in 2019, has opted for a move to Incheon United. Seongnam's two foreign strikers last season have both departed. Eder headed to Jeju in a late switch, while Mathias Coureur returns to the Bulgarian league.

Key Player 

Tomislav Kis

Making his debut for Croatian giants Hadjuk Split at the age of 18, Kis certainly arrives at Tancheon with some pedigree. The 26-year-old enjoyed prolific form for Zalgiris in the Lithuanian league last season netting 27 in 31 appearances following previous spells in Belgium and Belarus. Seongnam fans will be hoping Kis is a late developer, with last term only the second time he's reached double figures in his career. 2019 was a landmark year for the loanee who last November kept pace with Jamie Vardy and Timo Werner in the race for the European Golden Shoe. Even though Kis eventually slipped down the rankings, he emerged level on points with Harry Kane and Luis Suarez. Having a Croatian-speaking ally in the squad in Igor Jovanovic will help Kis settle into the KLeague with the defender joining from Panaitolikos.

[Read: Kim Young-kwang Transfer Profile]

Young Player to Watch

Kim Dong-hyun

Kim Nam-il has forged a very experienced squad to avoid a potential relegation battle but has kept hold of one of Korea's finest prospects in central midfield in Kim Dong-hyun. A key figure in January's AFC U23 tournament, the 22-year-old was trusted to play all 120 minutes in the final by Kim Hak-beom, shielding the defence to maintain a clean sheet. Performing the same role to beat Australia in the semi-final alongside new Ulsan signing Won Du-jae, Kim was a player who let others take the plaudits as Korea took the title. Developing well in KLeague 2 at Gwangju as they steadily improved throughout the 2018 season, Kim notched an impressive 36 appearances at just 20 years old. The youngster found opportunities limited to just six starts last term at Seongnam. However, with the ageing nature of the squad he should provide vital legs in the middle of the park.

Biggest Question 

Will the large squad turnaround cause a slow start?

Other sides in KLeague 1 expected to finish in the bottom half of the table, such as Incheon United and Gwangju, haven't seen as much turnaround in their squads as Kim Nam-il has undertaken a large switch in personnel. While the lengthened off-season has been disruptive, it may allow key foreign signings in Kis and Iskanderov time to settle in off the pitch and be ready for the start of the season. Older heads such as Kim Young-kwang will have seen plenty of upheaval in their careers and will be around the training pitch reminding players to keep their focus on the game. An opening day fixture down at Gwangju could be the perfect opportunity to show their experience from the off.

Reason to Watch 

Tancheon has the temporary stands behind the goals which always improves atmosphere at teams who can not fill some of the larger KLeague stadiums. Fans of Choreos should visit with displays set up in the home end including a mechanical bird. Seongnam is also easily accessible by bus in Korea with direct buses from towns as small as Gimje. While it's doubtful Kim Nam-il will employ a pressing style, it will be great to see Kim Dong-hyun given a chance among players who have been there and done it, helping him to develop. There could also be an essence of Neil Warnock style football in a bid to avoid a scrap at the bottom. Any side in KLeague needs a creative number 10 and Iskanderov could provide some competition to Cesinha as the league's best. 

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