Dejan Damjanovic: "I joined Suwon because they wanted me and they are a team fighting for championships."
Suwon: K League icon explains his shock move to FC Seoul's rivals and aims for 2018 AFC Champions League ahead of Tuesday's Play-off.
In one of the most stunning signings in recent K-League history, Dejan Damjanovic - one of Korean football's all-time top scorers - left FC Seoul, his club of eight seasons, to join fierce rivals Suwon Samsung Bluewings.
Ahead of Tuesday's AFC Champions League Play-off with FLC Thanh Hoa, the Montenegrin spoke to the-AFC.com about the reasons behind his controversial switch and gave his thoughts on this year's AFC Champions League.
Q: Hi Dejan, how are you and the team doing ahead of the match against FLC Thanh Hoa?
I think we are OK. We just got back from Jeju last night and we are finalising our preparations for Tuesday night. We know how important this game is and we need to be very careful because it’s our first game of the season. Nevertheless, I’m confident we'll put on a good performance.
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Q: Your opponents were in action just a few days ago, defeating Hong Kong’s Eastern SC in the Preliminary Round 2. What did you think of them? Have you had a chance to analyse this team at all yet?
Yes, I saw the result and already we have had some meetings about them. I can see they are a really well-organised team with a lot of fast players. We will analyse them more in the coming days and prepare well for the match.
Q: Do you have much experience of playing Vietnamese teams, what kind of qualities do they have in comparison with other Asian teams?
Honestly, this will be my first game against a Vietnamese side, so I don’t have any idea how they play. But I have been watching the 2018 AFC U23 Championship and I saw them reach the final, so I can see they will be a very serious opponent.
Q: While you have played the AFC Champions League with more than one team in your career, how strange will it be stepping out onto the field in an AFC Champions League game for the first time wearing the shirt of Korean team that isn't FC Seoul?
It is a little bit strange, but I’m a professional and I know a lot of players in Suwon and I’m adapting to this team very well. I’ll probably have that strange feeling right up until I go out for the pre-game warm-up, but after that will be focused only on the match.
Q: As such a legend of FC Seoul, it did shock a lot of people when you joined the big rivals Suwon - was it a difficult move for you to make knowing the rivalry between the teams?
To be honest, I know its big move but FC Seoul didn’t want to speak with me about a new contract, so I was free to choose the best option for me and my family. I chose Suwon Samsung Bluewings because they made it clear to me they really wanted me – that was very important – and also I want to play for a big team who is always fighting for championships.
Q: You are of course only six goals off becoming the all-time AFC Champions League top scorer too, did playing in the 2018 AFC Champions League and aiming for that target also influence your choice of Suwon?
Yeah, I know I’m just a few goals off becoming the top scorer in the history of the AFC Champions League, but I will try first to win the competition, if it’s possible, because that’s a title I’m still missing from my time in Asia.
Q: You've joined a team with another continental icon in the ranks, how is it like to play with Korean legend Yeom Ki-hun?
I am so blessed to be with him on the team, he is a high-class player and an excellent guy. I think we’re going to link up really well this season. He actually reminds me of [Mauricio] Molina, my former teammate, they have the same style, same personality. We’ve played a few games and so far it’s been working really well.
Q: Speaking of teammates, what are your thoughts about Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors signing 2016 AFC Champions League Top Scorer Adriano, who you played with at FC Seoul? Does this make them one of the favourites to win the AFC Champions League this year?
Yeah, I saw it, and they are the biggest favorites in every competition honestly, but that doesn’t mean they will perform well just because they have good players. We are going to prepare well, do our best, and see if that will be enough to beat them.
Q: Any other teams - aside from Suwon and Jeonbuk - you think could win the AFC Champions League this year?
There are definitely some teams that can be considered to do well in the tournament. Shanghai SIPG, Guangzhou Evergrande and Kawasaki Frontale in the East, In the West, you have the likes of Al Hilal, Al Ain and Al Ahli. I’m sure this season AFC Champions League will be more than interesting!