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Clearly, Paulo Bento was very popular with his South Korean national team players

Paulo Bento's time as manager of the South Korean national team is done. The last thing he did was meet President Yun Suk-yeol on Thursday for a luncheon before getting ready to embark on the next chapter of his career. There had been talk of a possible extension to his deal, some had said the KFA wanted a 1+3 deal to cover the AFC Asian Cup then a possible extension but Bento wanted four years. How much of that is true is unclear, but what is very clear is that Bento was well-liked by his players.
Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images

Son Heung-min had already worn the captain's armband before Paulo Bento took over. He, of course, was wearing it when he tucked the ball into an empty German net at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. But Son was Bento's skipper, his pick throughout the four years he had in charge. 

Naturally, as South Korea's key player, he was at the forefront of Bento's brand of football through out this World Cup cycle.

It was a four-year period which Son has placed importance on, too, when speaking with Sports G following the 4-1 loss to Brazil. Not only that, but Son reaffirmed that the players fully believed in Bento's system:

"The last four years have been very important. The football the manager wanted to play, us players had never once doubted him despite many others doing so. The outcome was us performing well in this World Cup and receiving plaudits for that. It's because of the things we had prepared over the past four years that we reached the Round of 16. We need to recognise that and going forward we have to improve."

Son also spoke of Bento's man-management skills:

"I really learned a lot, it was a good experience. He was always a coach for the players. He always thought about the players' locations and looked out for us. I always had a good relationship with him and was able to learn a lot. I learned so much that I can't say thank you enough. He will always have my sincere support."


FNR


Hwang In-beom, meanwhile, who also according to Sports G, cried in the mixed zone after speaking about Paulo Bento, such was the level of sadness felt after learning that the Portuguese was set to depart.

"I'm so thankful. A lot has been said on the outside. 'Why are you playing Hwang In-beom, what on earth do you see in this player? Do you have personal connections?' When I heard this kind of talk, if I was a manager I would have been affected by that. But no matter what he always believed in me. Because of him, I have even bigger dreams ahead of me and..."

Reportedly, Hwang In-beom was unable to finish his sentence due to his emotions. 

The former Daejeon midfielder made his debut under Bento in that September 2018 friendly against Costa Rica in Goyang. Hwang came off the bench on that occasion and did so in the next match but he soon became a regular and known as Bento's 'hwangtaeja' or the 'Crown Prince of Bento.' 

He was a key part of Bento's system in that number six position. 

[READ: Paulo Bento to depart as manager of South Korean national team]

The feeling is mutual too as Bento explained as reported by Yonhap at a press conference at Incheon International Airport on Wednesday:

"Both in life and football, having trust in what you do is really important. From the beginning, I explained to the team that this was the style that would best help us achieve our objective. And even more importantly, the players trusted that it would work. With all due respect to South Korean football, this was a style that hadn't been used here before. But the players still believed this would work and stayed on the right path. I'd like to congratulate them for their professionalism at the World Cup."

Bento also spoke about his connection with the country which first began in 2002 when he, as a player with Portugal, was knocked out by South Korea at the quarter-final stage of the World Cup:

"Things didn't go so well in 2002, because Portugal did not have great results and I finished my international career. In 2022, things have gone well overall. Although we were eliminated in the round of 16, we still stuck to our style of play against a powerful team. And I will always be connected with South Korea, both in terms of my career and my personal life [...]  "I will always remember these players. I wish them all the best in the future."

Paulo Bento was appointed in August 2018 and became South Korea's longest-serving manager.

He oversaw 57 matches in charge, won 35, drew 13, and lost just nine.


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