Ulsan Hyundai FC defender Kim Young-gwon was voted the most valuable player (MVP) in South Korean football's top division Monday, and to hear the man himself tell it, Kim almost didn't even make it this far into the season to grab that award.
After accepting his K League 1 MVP trophy at an awards ceremony in Seoul, Kim revealed that he had a lucrative offer from a foreign club during this season.
Ulsan head coach Hong Myung-bo convinced Kim to stay with Ulsan, and the center back helped the team win their second consecutive K League 1 title.
"I am human, too. When I received that offer, I honestly wanted to leave," Kim said. "But after I spoke with the coach for about three hours, I decided not to go. From that conversation, I learned the value of making the right choices at an important point in life."
Kim did not reveal the club or the size of the offer but said he had no regrets over not taking the money.
"The coach made me feel like I made the right choice to stay here," Kim said. "Obviously, some extra money would have been nice, but I wouldn't trade this MVP award for money. I also got to win the league title with coach Hong, and that's good enough for me."
The 33-year-old, who previously played in Japan and China before making his K League 1 debut in 2022 with Ulsan, said he will now try to win a couple of continental trophies: Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup next with the national team and the AFC Champions League with Ulsan.
"Winning the Asian Cup, which is something I've never done, will be an important part of my career," Kim said. "Also, I signed with Ulsan hoping to win an AFC Champions League title. We still have a chance to do so this season."
Kim has collected 103 caps but has gradually lost playing time to Ulsan teammate Jung Seung-hyun since Jurgen Klinsmann took over the national team in March. No matter how his national team career winds down, Kim said he wants to leave a lasting impression on fans.
"I hope fans will remember me as a player who gave his heart and soul to the national team," Kim said. "That's how I want to begin the last page of my football career."
Kim collected 55 out of 115 votes from media, six out of 12 votes from head coaches and four out of 12 votes from captains of clubs in the K League 1. This is his first MVP honor.
Those votes were converted to 44.13 voting points for Kim, edging out Zeca of Pohang Steelers, who finished with 41.76 points.