Welcome to the third and final installment of the Summer 2019 Tavern Transfer Roundup! Here, David and Joon present their thoughts about the transfer rumors surrounding Korean soccer veterans Jo Hyeon-woo, Koo Ja-cheol, and Son Heung-min. If you have your own insight about some of the opinions presented, let us know in the comments below. Also, feel free to let us know if we’ve missed out on anybody. Thanks for reading!
Jo Hyeon-woo to the Bundesliga?
This is actually a pretty amusing situation. The hype from San Cho’s performance at the 2018 World Cup was so monumental that fans were linking him to last season’s most goalie-deprived team in Europe, Liverpool. This prospective signing was dubbed a dream move by the press at the time, but now it seems as if Korea’s World Cup savior could be making a dream move to Europe after all. After winning gold as a distinguished overage player at the 2018 Asian Games, JHW has lifted the monkey of compulsory military service off of his back for an opportunity to have a club career abroad. This had been made more clear when Daegu FC had cleared JHW for a foreign transfer two weeks ago. Subsequently, some Bundesliga clubs immediately began reaching for their telephones to sign the star keeper during this summer’s German transfer window. FSV Mainz 05, in particular, aggressively approached Daegu for a deal involving JHW. JHW has established himself as a Daegu FC veteran, having made 173 domestic appearances for the K-League club over a span of seven years. A move to the Bundesliga, however, would be a historic one, considering JHW would be the only KNT goalie in history to have played in a European league. However, is the move necessary? Does it even make sense?
From 1993 to 2010, Korean national team legend Lee Woon-jae made 133 international appearances, including appearances in four World Cups (1994, 2002, 2006, 2010). Undoubtedly, Lee Woon-jae is Korea’s most internationally decorated goalkeeper, and guess what? He played his entire career in the K-League. Judging from the past, it would be a badge of honor if one of the KNT’s goalkeepers ended up playing in one of the biggest leagues in the world. But it’s not necessary.
If JHW were to make a move to Mainz, he’d be competing against the likes of youngsters Robin Zentner and Florian Muller for a starting spot between the sticks next season. And the competition isn’t a joke. Having been called up to German youth national teams these last few years, Muller has established himself as a major contender to become the Bundesliga’s next big goalkeeping star. In addition, JHW would have to learn a new language and become accustomed to an entirely new environment at the prime of his K-League career. The move would be historic, but it would also prove to be a major risk for someone who has already had everything going for him in his country these last few seasons.
This situation is strikingly similar to the one Mexican national team goalkeeper Guillermo “Memo” Ochoa faced after his splendid performance at the 2014 World Cup. In the same way Ochoa had his standout game against hosts Brazil in 2014, JHW had his against Germany in 2018. And just like Ochoa, JHW is a great goalkeeper from a country lacking in global stars who play between the goalposts. Ochoa, who was once linked to Arsenal and Liverpool immediately after his World Cup heyday, has now played modestly for the last few years at Belgian club Standard Liege. And he was honestly a better goalkeeper in 2014 than Jo is now. Simply put, JHW just happened to show up at the time he needed to show up the most. And the media hype for him is still lingering in the air. The move would make for great speculation and entertainment for most Korean football fans, but it’s not necessary at all.
Verdict: With that being said, I’d like to see this happen. It’s never been done before, and I’d like to see a piece of KNT history unravel amongst my very own eyes next season. Will it happen? Maybe. But I’ve yet to see any source from outside of Korea having anything to reveal or even say about this potential move. I’m going to have to call this one a miss, but I wouldn’t be mad at it.
Cho Hyun-Woo transfer speculation has been a novelty go-to for Korean media ever since his heroics against Germany in that fateful 2-0 win. It almost feels like a “come grab him” desperate plea from Korean media at this point, with Daegu denying several transfer speculations linking Cho to Germany in the past.
That’s certainly not to say Cho is undeserving of a move abroad. A fantastic and loyal servant to Daegu FC, he has a fantastic track record in the K-League, having being named in the Best XI each year he has played since 2015. Albeit, in two of these seasons Daegu were languishing in the second division, his consistency speaks for itself. Although he has been predominantly linked to FSV Mainz, it seems unlikely due to the fact that Mainz already boast one of the most promising young goalkeepers in the Bundesliga. Cho is 27 this year and quickly approaching the peak of his career and thus, it doesn’t seem likely that he’d leave for Mainz to play second fiddle to a young talent.
Amongst other issues is the problem of Cho’s distribution. Bento has showcased his preference for Kim Seung-Gyu due to this very problem on multiple occasions. European football is much more demanding of their goalkeepers and especially with how ubiquitous the “sweeper keeper” role has become in modern football, less and less European teams will look to bring in foreign shot stoppers who aren’t capable with the ball at their feet.
Verdict: I am being overly pessimistic about these rumours ever since I too, was baited by promises of a Korean goalkeeper in Europe. Let me make this clear, Cho Hyun-Woo is a fantastic keeper and definitely merits a move to Europe somewhere. However, it is rather a question of whether or not there is genuine interest in his services, or if it’s just Korean media agenda linking him to Germany just for the heck of it.
Koo Ja-cheol to stay in the Bundesliga?
As confirmed last May, Korean players Ji Dong-won and Koo Ja-cheol will be making their departures from FC Augsburg this summer. While Ji Dong-won has been confirmed to be leaving for Mainz next season, Koo Ja-cheol’s whereabouts are mostly unknown to the public. Augsburg originally attempted to strike a three-year deal with KJC, which would have likely marked the remainder of the recent national team retiree’s Bundesliga career. But according to the Korean media, KJC is in search of “a new challenge,” likely to be found in one of the big three leagues in East Asia or another Bundesliga club. Leaving the prime of his career at the age of 30, it’s unclear where KJC could end up in the Bundesliga that would be prove a worthy enough challenge and fit for him next season. Last season, Augsburg required upset wins over Borussia Dortmund and Eintracht Frankfurt to keep them ahead of Stuttgart in the race against the Bundesliga relegation playoffs. It would be hard-pressed to see KJC anywhere outside of the mid-table if he were to come back to the Bundesliga next season. In all, KJC has been in the Bundesliga since January 2011 with three clubs. This includes 211 Bundesliga appearances including 140 coming from his two stints with FC Augsburg. Since 2016, though, the Chinese media has linked KJC to a move to the Chinese Super League. With his international career at an end and his club career winding down, may he end up enticed to leave for the big money of Chinese ownership?
The first time I was exposed to KJC’s play, I was only eleven years old. At the time, I was following the Korea U-23 NT’s run in the 2012 London Olympics. After having dispatched the likes of Gabon, Switzerland, and Great Britain, Korea met Japan in the bronze medal match only to defeat their archrivals in a convincing 2-0 victory. KJC’s scoring the second goal in that match proved to be a miraculous moment. It meant that Korea was going to win Asia’s first Olympic medal in men’s football since 1968 and achieve their greatest ever youth footballing achievement.
And even in that time, KJC was in the Bundesliga, sharing time between VfL Wolfsburg and FC Augsburg on loan between 2010 and 2014. Before Son Heung-min, KJC was the Korean player in Germany that many people believed would make a mark on both the club and international stage. Commended for his vision and “uncanny ability to find the back of the net,” KJC looked as if was going to be a pioneer for Asian footballers in the Bundesliga. And that he was. The playing career of KJC, amongst others, will prove to be the precedent for Asian footballers who aspire to have careers in Germany.
I don’t see how KJC would have received a better deal from anywhere else but Augsburg to conclude the rest of his European footballing career. Judging from last season’s Bundesliga standings, I also don’t see how KJC would fit in any other team in Germany being at the ripe age of 30, falling from the peak fitness of his career. After 200 appearances in the German top flight, it seems that KJC is ready to take his career to the next stage in China next season. With nearly a decade of European playing experience under his belt, KJC will likely be offered the big bucks for a secured starting spot on a CSL roster.
Verdict: KJC could stay in the Bundesliga or elsewhere in Europe, but it won’t do anything to further his career. Being a bit past his prime but still possessing some valuable experience under his belt, I believe KJC would be better off making a pretty penny at a Chinese club next season. As far as his club career is concerned, it also doesn’t hurt that KJC is no longer playing with the KNT, meaning that he can spend more time integrating into his new environment. An environment that isn’t all to far away from home anyway.
It’s fair to say that Koo Ja-Cheol’s career has plateaued and taken a slow decline thanks to multiple recurring injuries. There was much promise for Koo and Ji after the 2011 AFC Cup saw them net 5 goals and 4 goals respectively. Koo fulfilled some of that promise early in his Bundesliga career, scoring some howitzers from midfield during his initial stint with Augsburg.
Koo has given his best years to the Bundesliga and if he were to leave the Bundesliga now, no-one would blame him. Big bucks in China could tempt him away, but it’s hard to imagine Koo playing anywhere but Germany.
Truth be told, to most of us it would be much more satisfying if he finished his career where he began it all, in the K-League. Jeju FC are struggling after it seemed they were beginning to consistently challenge for the ACL places and a legendary return wouldn’t be out of the question. It is more likely that Koo will go somewhere that can afford his services and after his retirement from the national team in order to preserve his body for first-team football, I doubt he will be leaving Europe anytime soon.
Verdict: Koo should still have plenty more left in the tank and after his retirement from international football, should still have something to prove. I’m going to logically opt for a stay in the Bundesliga with a mid-table side, but it would be tremendous to see him return to the K League as a veteran and a leader.
Son Heung-min to Real Madrid? Bayern Munich?
This is just for fun. However, there have recently been some strange reports about Real Madrid’s purported interest in Son this past month. This proceeds the Bayern Munich transfer rumors that were sprouting up about him at the beginning of the Premier League season. In his Tottenham transfer rater after the Champions League final, ESPN FC pundit and former Chelsea midfielder Craig Burley was faced to make many tough predictions about the whereabouts of Spurs players next season. Understandably, Burley struggled to foretell the future of highly demanded, highly contemplated Spurs talents Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld. Son Heung-min, though? Easiest decision in the world. Burley put him in the “stay” pile without a second doubt.
Nonetheless, the prospect of SHM leaving Spurs does raise some questions. As a fan, where do you see him ending up in the immediate or distant future? How long do you think he’ll stay in the white part of North London? Let us know in the comments below.
Whether it’s for the Spanish or German football giant, I don’t expect SHM to leave North London anytime soon. He’s happy where he’s at, and, in fact, I don’t even think this will happen in the distant future. SHM’s contact with Spurs ends in 2023 when he’ll be at the ripe age of thirty-one, probably past his prime by then. He could extend his stay in the Premier League or return to the Bundesliga for a few more years. Personally, I’d like to see SHM in the MLS one day. LAFC, perhaps?
Verdict: Over the last few seasons, Son has established himself as a Spurs starter and fan favorite, having progressed consistently every year he’s played under Mauricio Pochettino. After a disappointing end to a memorable Champions League campaign last season, I know Son is hungry to achieve more with his current club. There’s no way he’s leaving anytime soon.
I think a player like Son will usually only leave a club when they believe that they have either outgrown the club’s ambition, or they are forced out of the starting lineup. In Son’s case, it’s neither. They have a hungry group of players, arguably the best number 9 in world football and a fantastic manager to boot. Their playstyle revolves mainly around Son’s strengths and doesn’t ask for more than what he can give. Son does have limitations, as we are all too familiar with when he slips on that KNT Jersey, especially when he has too much asked of him. Thus a marquee move to smaller club seems even less likely than that of Bayern Munich or Real Madrid.
Verdict: Son loves Tottenham. Tottenham loves son. Not happening.