Heading into the summer months the season began to heat up, as did the number of interviews with K League teams entering the AFC Champions League Group Stages and the Olympics on the horizon.
One man who was extremely determined to fire his team into AFC Champions League qualification for next season was Joo Min-kyu. Although Jeju United ultimately fell short, the former Goyang, Seoul E-Land, and Ulsan man made it very clear that the Islanders belonged in the continental competition.
"Every team prepares the same way and has the goal of being at the top, no team comes out to lose a match. That's how we think too and how we are trying to move forward. Jeju United's rightful place is to be in the AFC Champions League so we are doing what we can until we reach that point. These are the steps we want to take."
Full Interview: here
Meanwhile, already in the ACL was Daegu FC. Brazilian striker Edgar Silva looked back on the SkyBlues' first experience of the competition and hoped to make more progress this time around.
"It was the first time of Daegu in history to play in ACL and that time like I said, many players didn't have any experience in international competition. I tried to pass my experience to them. But now they are more experienced, they played more in the K League and now we know better how to play Champions League. Maybe we made mistakes that we did that time, we will not do again. And I hope we can have good experiences again to play in Champions League."
Full Interview: here
Dave Bulthuis, of course, won the ACL with Ulsan Hyundai in 2020. The Horangi were looking to defend their crown in 2021.
"We had a pretty good time last year. I think nobody was expecting that we will win the Champions League, especially because all the players were very disappointed that we didn't win the K League. But we talked after to each other and we told each other 'let's just end the season positive,' and of course, you need a little bit of luck but it was a big moment for us.
"I think most of the K League is stronger than the teams we will play Champions League. On the other side, it's dangerous also, because last year, we had a strong, strong pool. And now there are more teams from other countries that are a little bit weaker than we are supposed to play against. But I think that we have to keep our concentration to play against this kind of teams, and when we just do our thing like last year. But as long as we have in the head that we have to play every game 100% then we can beat everybody."
Another ACL winner looking to add another title to his collection this year was Jeonbuk's Kim Bo-kyung.
"Personally, as a team, we're challenging ourselves to win every year, and I'm sure our fans were very disappointed and shocked last year. Based on last year's experience, we're working hard here so that we don't do the same thing again. In a way, I think last year's results will be the foundation for a good performance this season.
"In a way, I felt [the 2016 ACLwin] was more difficult than winning the league because it was a tournament and the travel time and distance were very long. Despite the fact we had good players and played in a good condition in every game, there were many difficult matches. In ACL competitions, the will to win is very important, and in a way, a little luck is needed. In this regard, we seemed to have won the 2016 Asian Champions League because we were well prepared and everything came together nicely in our favour. It was a memorable tournament as a player."
Full Interview: here
Meanwhile, Jeju United's Kang Yoon-seong was gearing up for the Olympics in Tokyo. Kang revealed that earning military exemption wasn't on his mind, just winning a medal for his country. He also talked about what his preferred position on the field is.
"Whichever team I am called for, I remain at their disposal to play whichever position they want me to. But If I were to pick one, I believe I would perform at my best when playing as a left or right-sided defender.
"Earning military exemption has never been a priority in our team. We are just doing our best to do our country proud. Through the Olympic games, I would like to prove my value as a player, and do my very best for my country."
Capping off our interviews for July was Busan IPark manager Ricardo Peres. The former assistant to Paulo Bento spoke about a number of things including how easy of a decision it was to become the Royals' new manager.
"[Busan CEO Chung Mong-kyu and I] talked for 45 minutes about my ideas and proposals. He said I will call you in two weeks if you are interested... Two days after, he called me, and it was very easy for me to come here. I heard many good things about Korea before coming here, so I didn't hesitate when offered the job."
Paul Neat, Matthew Binns, Todd Wilde, Lee Dowon, Branko Belan.