Yonichi returns after 8 years in ‘romantic Incheon’ “I had several offers, but I decided to take the opportunity to return to Incheon”

Yonichi Yonichi, who returned to Incheon United after an eight-year absence, explains why he decided to make a ‘romantic return’.

Incheon, which has made the leap from “survivor” to the top tier, has added weight to its squad with big-name signings every winter in recent years. Last year, they added forward Jerso and midfielder Shin Shin-ho, and in 2022, they added midfielder Lee Myung-joo. This year, the defense has been bolstered. On March 24, the club announced the signing of Yonichi, whose contract with Japanese J1 club Cerezo Osaka expired.

Yonichi is a player Incheon fans know well. He played for Incheon in 2015 and 2016. He was named to the 홀덤사이트 K League 1 Best 11 for two consecutive years. In 2015, Yonichi’s defense led the league in fewest goals conceded.

After leaving Incheon after the 2016 season, Yonichi traveled to Japan and China before returning to the Incheon Football Stadium as a seasoned veteran. He put a lot of things aside to put on the Incheon jersey again. In a press release announcing the signing, Incheon said, “As soon as Yonichi became a free agent, he sat down at the negotiation table with the club. He hoped to return to Incheon even if he had to compromise on his salary.”

Speaking to ‘Footballist’ at Incheon’s second winter training camp in Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do, Yonichi said, “Incheon was the first team I played for in Asia. I had a lot of good feelings left. When my contract ended in Japan, I had the opportunity to return. I had several offers, but I decided to take the chance to return to Incheon. I thought I had a lot to contribute to Incheon at this point in my career.” “It brought back a lot of memories. “It’s been a long time since I played for Incheon, but all the memories flashed through my mind. It’s great to be able to play for Incheon again,” he said of his return.

“In the two years I played, there were a lot of ups and downs. There were good times and not so good times. We were fighting for survival. It was really, really tough, but on the other hand, it makes me and the players stronger. In the end, we survived. I have good memories of playing in the FA Cup final. Also, in the last game of the second season, we confirmed our stay in the K League 1, which was a memorable moment for the club, the fans and everyone,” he recalled eight years ago.

In the seven years that Yonichi has been away from the K League, Incheon has changed in many ways. First and foremost, the team’s performance and status have improved dramatically. The club finished fourth in the 2022 season and qualified for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League (ACL) for the first time in its history. In the 2023 season, they reached the Final A for the second consecutive year while also playing in the ACL.

“It’s changed a lot,” says Yonichi. “Incheon is now a stable team and a strong team that is aiming for the top. Last season, I played with the ACL and did well. We have a clubhouse that we didn’t have before. I think it’s a different team than when I played. I think it’s a different team than the one I played on. This year we can do better than last year. We have to aim high. We have a lot of good players. We can take another step forward.”

The team has changed a lot since then. Only Kim Do-hyuk and Song Si-woo remain from this season’s squad. Born in the early 1990s, the three players played together in their early to mid-20s and are now reunited as veterans in their 30s. “I think there’s a real romance in our team,” said Kim Do-hyuk, who was interviewed before Yonichi’s arrival. “I was really happy to hear that Yonichi was coming back. I remember Yonichi as a really good player,” he said, expressing his excitement.

When asked about Kim Do-hyuk, Yonichi said, “I remember him as a player with good energy in the midfield. He would shout passionately and energize the team. It was nice to see a face I’ve seen for a long time, and we’ve both grown up now,” he laughed.

He also has a connection to Mugosa, the ‘Pangum finisher’ who made a romantic comeback. Although they didn’t play for the same team, they lived close to each other in Japan and became close friends. “We had the same agent and the same language, so we knew each other before, and we became really good friends in Japan,” Yonichi says. We lived nearby and spent a lot of time together as a family. We even watched an Incheon game together. It’s nice to be teammates with Mugosa. I can’t wait to play with him.”

The transfer process was finalized at the end of Incheon’s training camp in Thailand, and Yonichi joined the team for the Changwon training camp that began earlier this month. Incheon captain Lee Myeong-joo said, “Yonichi has been working hard since training. The other players are bound to be nervous. The training atmosphere has changed a lot. It’s positive,” he said of Yonichi’s effect.

Despite his late arrival, Yonichi is ready to play in front of the fans from the opening match. “I’m training hard every day and getting better. Even before I joined the team, I trained with a personal coach, and when I came to the Changwon camp, I started touching the ball in earnest. There is still plenty of time before the start of the season. I’m aiming to play from the first round,” he said of his physical condition.

His goal for the season is to stay on the field and help Incheon reach the next level. “My personal goal is to stay healthy and not get injured. I want to play as many games as possible to help the team qualify for the ACL and challenge for the FA Cup, and I want to take the team as high as possible.”

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