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"One of my biggest desires and my wish is to retire in Korea" - Dejan Damjanović

It's no secret that Dejan Damjanović has great affection for the K League and Korean football having played for four different clubs across 12 seasons. Even after leaving Daegu FC in 2020, the three-time K League title winner admits that he still dreams of ending his career in the league where he made his name in Asia.

K League's new 5+1 foreign player rule - whereby teams will be able to sign up to six foreign players but only play four at one time - takes effect in 2023 and could help facilitate a return for Dejan.

The rule itself is something of a compromise as K League aims to keep Korean players happy by not limiting their first-team opportunities, while also making sure its clubs don't get left behind in the AFC Champions League where six foreign players will be allowed starting from the 2023-24 competition.

"I heard about this rule last year and it was a lot of mixed opinions, of course from Korean players, from the Korean Federation, from comments like newspapers and internet portals," says Dejan when asked for his thoughts on the rule change. "I think it's not bad. You are not damaging, you are not attacking the development of the younger guys from Korea.

"But still, you must understand when you play ACL, it's gonna be different when you play against some teams who can use all five foreigners. Honestly, it's totally different. We (Kitchee) are in this situation where we are using a lot of foreigners, believe me, even in this small league when we have five foreigners, we are very dangerous.

"If they can make the budget good for the team, I think they can bring really five good foreigners. And the level of the football for that team will be much higher than others. When you can change to fresh foreigners, put them [on in the] second half and they can make the difference."

Dejan in action for Kitchee in the 2022 AFC Champions League (Photo by Pakawich Damrongkiattisak/Getty Images)
Having an experienced head in the dressing room and as an option off the bench could be a valuable asset for many teams in K League. 

"The biggest teams like Jeonbuk, Ulsan, Seoul, maybe Jeju, they have really good budgets. You know, these kinds of teams, probably even Incheon now because they're gonna play ACL. I'm sure the city will support them. I think they're gonna have good five foreigners. Others, they're gonna [have] three good and these two [extra] guys will be like me, for example, older. I'm gonna be satisfied if I'm playing 20 minutes. I can make the difference in 20 minutes. I will never complain if I'm not playing 90 minutes."


FNR


Dejan, then, could be one of those foreign players.

"You know that one of my biggest desires and my wishes is to retire in Korea. But we need to be realistic. It's really hard to find a team now. I'm 41 and even I'm playing good and I'm feeling great, but you know I will not go to just any team, you know what I mean?

"It's not easy to say, 'Hey, I wanna go FC Seoul,' even if I feel sometimes like it's like my home, my second home. It's hard to say I wanna go there (to a specific team), but I cannot live in the dreams. If something happens, maybe I will think about it, if not, anyway, I'm here for six more months, and after that, I think it's gonna be enough...My body's still working really good and I'm feeling really good and I'm scoring and I'm still doing my job really good. I just feel that maybe now it's time to stop and try to do something else."

A return to K League would allow Dejan to reach 200 goals. Although he managed much more than that in all competitions, he remains stuck on 198.

Full interview coming to the K League Podcast and YouTube channel soon.


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