So, the weekend is half over, but most of our boys playing in the big European leagues have done their weekend’s work. And as the season draws nearer to it’s conclusion, it’s left me wondering. Should we be worried about the future for our boys in Europe? Many of them are currently playing for teams that look to be in serious danger of relegation from the top flight. What does this mean for our top senior players?
I suppose it is important to note that many of our players are actually out on loan this season. But, let’s take a quick glance at those playing in one of the five major European countries (Spain, England, Germany, Italy, France).
Park Chu-Young: Celta de Vigo, Spain
Current Position: 18th (relegation)
Points from Safety: -3
Celta has nine games left in the season. Escape from relegation is certainly a possibility. The week of April 15-21 may be the week that decides Celta’s fate as they play Mallorca and Real Zaragoza. Mallorca is 19th, but level on points with Celta. Zaragoza is the team in 16th, three points ahead of Celta. Celta’s chances were dealt a major blow when they lost in the Galician derby to rock bottom Deportivo la Coruna, and had club talisman Iago Aspas sent off for headbutting a Deportivo player. Aspas was subsequently banned for four matches, which would include the two aforementioned key matches. Park Chu-Young could end up having a key role in Celta’s survival after all.
Regardless of Celta’s survival, Park’s future is certainly in doubt. Reports from Spain are that the club is certainly not satisfied with Park’s performances, especially given his significant wages. A return to Arsenal looks likely, but it is all but certain that a mutual departure is in order from north London. Where that is, is a bit of a mystery. Park’s stock has certainly not gotten back to where it was before his ill-fated sprint to England. I certainly don’t feel like there’s another Premier League or Spanish team willing to take the out-of-sorts striker on.
Worry Factor: Medium-High – Park’s national team future is in a bit of doubt as is, and a move to a smaller club team could effectively end any chance he has with the NT.
Ki Sung-Yueng: Swansea City, England
Current Position: 9th (comfortably midtable)
Points from relegation: +10
It would take a monumental collapse (and monumental surge) for Swansea to drop out of England’s top flight, but I’ll include Ki and Swansea for completeness sake. A solid season for the Swans, that included a League Cup trophy (I refuse to say Capital One Cup, wait . . .), but Swansea’s form has recently taken a nasty drop, losing four of their last five in the Prem. During that time, Ki has also seen less minutes. Coincidence? Probably not, but I suppose it’s possible. I certainly don’t think Ki will be going anywhere next season, as Swansea will add European engagements to their calendar. Hopefully Ki won’t be distracted by his newfound relationship with Korean actress Han Hye-Jin.
Worry Factor: Low – Ki may not be starting every match for Swansea, but he’s certainly important for them. His importance for Korea is not in question either.
Yoon Suk-Young: QPR, England
Position: 19th (relegation)
Points from safety: -7
Yoon’s future is, somewhat strangely, hard to predict. You wouldn’t think you would say that about a player who just moved, but since Yoon has yet to appear for QPR, one has to wonder what his future holds. Perhaps he was bought for next season, and the early purchase was to head off other potential suitors? Will he be a regular for QPR, either in the Premier League, should they survive, or the Championship? Hard to say right now, but it would seem that he would have a better chance in the Championship. Of course, whether he should be playing in the Championship is another question.
The good news for QPR, regarding their remaining schedule, is that they’ll face both Reading and Wigan. Reading is currently bottom (although level on points), and Wigan is 17th (currently the survivor). Wins against those two will certainly help QPR’s cause. The bad news is that QPR must also face Arsenal, Everton, and Liverpool. So, their run-in isn’t exactly a cake walk.
Worry factor: Medium – It seems like many, too many for my liking, of our boys who go straight to the Premier League from the K League end up rotting on the bench. I’m hopeful this won’t be the case for Yoon, but each week that goes by with him not even making the bench, increases the worry. QPR will likely be relegated which boosts his playing chances, but it would be in a lower division.
Kim Bo-Kyung: Cardiff City, England
Position: 1st (automatic promotion)
Points from the playoffs: +8
Cardiff still looks likely to earn one of the two automation promotion spots to the Premier League. Their form has stuttered lately, but so has the form of most of the chasers. More concerning for Korean fans will be, similar to Ki Sung-Yueng, the recent benching of Kim. Kim was starting fairly regularly for the Bluebirds (or is it Redbirds now?), but has been an unused substitute for the five matches. Kim’s last appearance for Cardiff was at the end of February. While it’s great that Cardiff will likely be promoted to the Premier League, it would be a major disappointment if we end up with another player just sitting on the bench.
Worry Factor: Medium – Cardiff is in a good position, but Kim’s future is a bit more worrisome. I would hate for another of our promising players to be rotting on some Premier League bench.
Lee Chung-Yong: Bolton Wanderers, England
Position: 8th (hoping to make the playoffs)
Points from playoffs: -6
While some of our players have seen their form drop, Lee has been on the upswing. Going from part-time starter for Bolton, to first team regular. Bolton, for awhile, looked all but certain to be in the Championship again next season, but a late season surge has seen them almost reach the playoff spots. A two week stretch from April 16 – 27 will likely decide Bolton’s fate, as they face Leicester City, Middlesbrough, and Cardiff City. Leicester is the team above Bolton in 7th, and Middlesbrough is the team below in 9th (although level on points). With just seven matches left, it feels like Bolton will almost need to win out to get that playoff spot. Should Bolton fail to make it, it seems fairly certain that Lee will look for another team, and he should have plenty of suitors.
Worry Factor: Low – Even if Bolton stays in the Championship, Lee certainly won’t. Moves last summer/winter were likely scuppered as he continued to recover from his injury. Fully healed, there should be few concerns left. A move to the Premier League, with or without Bolton, or abroad will certainly happen.
Son Heung-Min: Hamburg SV, Germany
Position: 9th (comfortably midtable)
Points from relegation: +15
The brightest prospect to come from Korea since . . . ever. Son had a breakout season (again, in some ways), this year, and was routinely linked with many big clubs in Germany and England. He has reportedly signed a short-term extension with Hamburg, but it’s likely he’ll head out sooner rather than later. Hopefully he stays at Hamburg a bit longer instead of moving to a big club where he sits on the bench. Son remains a key piece of the offense at Hamburg, and likely will remain that way as long as he stays there.
Worry Factor: low – Son’s immense talent ensures his importance for club (and hopefully country). The worry would come if he decides to pursue a reported offer from the likes of Manchester United or Chelsea, where young talent often goes to die.
Koo Ja-Cheol: Augsburg, Germany
Position: 16th (relegation playoffs)
Points from safety: -5
Koo was a vital part of Augsburg’s survival last season, and I’m sure the club was hoping that this season would be the same. Koo hasn’t been as influential this year, and Augsburg is certainly in danger. The team is more than just Koo of course, but the few times I’ve watched Augsburg, they are certainly missing a player that can spark them. Augsburg has moved out of the two automatic relegation spots, but is still in the playoff spot, which would require them to play the third place Bundesliga 2 team (currently Kaiserslauten).
Koo is on loan from Wolfsburg, who isn’t doing terribly well either (but don’t appear to be relegation threatened), and it’s a bit of an unknown whether they’ll look to keep Koo, who has never really settled there. Wolfsburg recently brought back former star player, Diego, who happens to play the same position as Koo. A move on may be in the books for Koo regardless of Augsburg’s fate.
Worry Factor: Medium-Low – It’s very much possible that Augsburg gets relegated this season. I don’t know if Wolfsburg will want to keep him, and my gut instinct is that they won’t. Those two factors make the worry factor increase a bit, but Koo has done well enough in the Bundesliga and internationally to feel pretty good about his chances to move to a decent team.
Ji Dong-Won: Augsburg, Germany
Position: 16th (relegation playoffs)
Points from safety: -5
See the above write up on Augsburg. Ji has done fairly well for himself since moving to Augsburg. Virtually walking into the starting XI after being frozen out at Sunderland. What to make of that I’m not entirely sure. Either Ji is quite good or Augsburg is that bad. Further confusing things is that Sunderland is not exactly setting the Premier League on fire, so Ji’s benching is a bit puzzling. Regardless, Ji’s time at Augsburg is likely over at the end of the season, whether Augsburg survives or not. Where he goes, is a different matter. One doesn’t think that he’s in a big rush to head back to Wearside, even though Martin O’Neill has been sacked. Perhaps a permanent move to a different German side?
Worry Factor: Medium – Ji has done well at Augsburg, but he doesn’t quite have the reputation that Koo does. As such, any look for a move away from Sunderland, isn’t quite a lock. Ji is not as well known internationally, so finding another top flight team may be difficult. Ji seems more likely to move to a smaller league or team.
Park Jung-Bin: Gruether Furth, Germany
Position: 18th (relegation)
Points from safety: -14
Gruether Furth is dead last in the Bundesliga, and a virtual certainty to go down. That would seem to matter little to Park Jung-Bin, who is there on loan from Wolfsburg. Prior to his move to Gruether Furth, Park had been playing for the reserve/youth teams at Wolfsburg. The move was a positive one, as Park has gotten some top flight action and experience.
Worry Factor: low – At 19, Park Jung-Bin isn’t anywhere near international level. He still has time to develop and earn his stripes. If he can finish the season strong, perhaps another loan move next season. If not he’ll probably stay at Wolfsburg and play in the reserves.
What do you think? Should we worry for our boys in the major European nations? Share your thoughts in the comments!