Brazilian striker Leonardo, 26, believes that South Korean professional soccer is the best place to play in East Asia if you want to play at the highest level in Europe.
“In the K League, physicality is more important (than in other East Asian club soccer),” Leonardo said in an interview published on Chinese portal Sina.com’s sports section on Sunday. You naturally become a better player physically,” he analyzed.
메이저놀이터 From February to December 2022, Leonardo played for Ulsan Hyundai, scoring 14 goals and providing six assists in 43 games, including cup competitions. Since then, he has played in the Chinese Super League (1st Division) for Changchun Yatai, Shandong Taishan, and Zhejiang FC.
Leonardo plays for Ulsan Hyundai in the 2022 K League 1. Photo courtesy of the Korea Football Association
“This physical advantage is the basis for playing for a European powerhouse,” says Leonardo. That’s why there are so many Korean and K League players in Asia playing for top clubs,” he said.
Last season, Leonardo played for Ulsan, ranking fourth in the 2022 K League 1 in shots on target, ninth in attacking points, 11th in goals, and 18th in goals per game.
His 0.69 attacking points per 90 minutes in the Korean top flight was good enough, but he was even better in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League qualifiers with three goals and two assists in seven games.
Leonardo’s involvement in scoring against Asian clubs was impressive, averaging a goal or assist every 1.06 full-time minutes for Ulsan.
In the Chinese Super League, he has 17 goals and five assists in 40 games from 2021-2023. “Like in Brazil, the focus is on individual performance,” said Leonardo. The whole organization, including teammates, coaches, staff, and management, looks out for the star players.”
Leonardo dominated the lower leagues, winning back-to-back top scoring titles in the 2018 J3 League and 2019 J2 League. “Japanese soccer is comprehensive. Even frontline strikers and goalkeepers are asked to play for the whole team, not just shoot or make saves, but also defend,” he reflects.
“I’m Brazilian, so I’m most comfortable in China, where there’s a lot of individualism (in sports),” said Leonardo, who advised that “if you have a tendency to put yourself above the organization, the Japanese game will be the most difficult in East Asian football.”