2016 had ended with Jeju finishing 3rd in the K-League Classic having crashed out of the FA Cup on penalties to Gwangju in the 4th round in a rather feeble attempt at cup glory.
They would later on find themselves propelled into Jeonbuk’s ACL group after the team from Jeonju were disqualified from defending their crown. This in itself would mean that they would find themselves in a, on paper, harder group then if they had navigated the playoffs and may not have been the best news to start a new footballing year.
The close season had seen them add Frederic Mendy from Ulsan and a relatively unknown Brazilian called Magno Cruz who would go on to have quite the debut season alongside his countryman Marcelo. For years Jeju had earned a reputation as being slightly one-dimensional and dare we say it boring, but the free-flowing attacking football of 2016 would continue to run through their veins in 2017 and they would finish the season with a goal difference of +23. They also brought that swashbuckling swagger to the ACL and even though they had been “placed” in a harder group than first thought they would exceed expectations and finish an easy 2nd. They failed to score in only one ACL group match and in a year of poor Korean performances were the one ray of sunshine. It is, of course, what came next in the Knockout Stage that will live long in most fan’s memories both island-based and beyond.
Below KLeagueUnited columnist Paul Neat (@NeatPaul) gives us his assessment of the Jeju United ‘Class of 2017’.