Lee’s milestone secures K-League title for Jeonbuk Motors
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Veteran South Korea striker Lee Dong-gook scored his 200th K-League goal to ensure a troubled period for Asian club champion Jeonbuk Motors will end with a fifth domestic title.
Jeonbuk won the 2016 Asian Champions League but was barred from defending its crown in 2017 after a former scout was found guilty of bribing a referee in 2013. That also cost Jeonbuk the 2016 K-League title, as it was stripped of nine competition points and was edged for the premiership by FC Seoul on the final day.
A 3-0 win Sunday over closest challenger Jeju United was enough to secure the K-League title for Jeonbuk with two games to spare.
“It’s been a difficult season to be sure, but the players never gave up until the end,” coach Choi Kang-hee said. “Winning a championship is never easy, but we were able to get it done because our players did so much for this team.”
Choi paid tribute to the 38-year-old Lee, who is also the record goalscorer in the Asian Champions League with 32 goals.
“He may be advancing in years but he still knows how to score and brings experience to the squad,” Choi said. “He is a player who can always get you a goal.”
Lee, who had short and unsuccessful spells over the previous decade in Europe with Werder Bremen in Germany and Middlesbrough in England, is the first player to reach 200 goals in Asia’s oldest professional league. He has also recorded 71 assists in his 467 games.
“The Lion King”, has also made more than 100 appearances for the national team and was even named in South Korea’s roster for vital 2018 World Cup qualifiers in August and September.
Despite helping South Korea secure a spot at next year’s World Cup in Russia, Lee hinted that he retire once the season ends.
“Next season is still far away,” Lee said. “It is possible that I will retire this year but I want to do my best in the remaining games and that I will talk about my future after the season ends.”