With several media outlets in transfer frenzy mode and various Korean players set for greener pastures, we at the Tavern (David and Joon) are keen to address the latest transfer gossip with some realistic expectations and fresh perspectives. So join us as we give you the rundown on the done deals of the window so far and watch out for part 2, where we give you a rundown of the transfer rumours too!
Jeong Woo-Yeong to SC Freiburg
It’s only natural that we first delve into the deals that have already been confirmed by official clubs sources and that brings us to the bag of potential that is Jeong Woo-Yeong. Jeong enjoyed an incredibly stellar year for the Bayern Munich II team in the 3. Liga. He made a total of 31 appearances for the side, netting 13 times and even made his senior competitive debut when he came on as a sub against Benfica in the UEFA Champions League. Unfortunately, with Alphonso Davies ahead of him in the pecking order and as Bayern have looked to marquee signings to replace the likes of Ribery and Robben, Jeong has been forced to look elsewhere to further his development. Freiburg instantly swooped for Jeong, paying €4.5m to secure his services. Freiburg seem to have taken a keen interest in the Korean market (more on that later) and lured Jeong over with the promise of first-team football.
With Bayern not being able to promise many first-team opportunities to Jeong, it seems sensible that he has chosen to stay in the Bundesliga with Freiburg. He will most likely be a starting/rotational option for Christian Streich, as Freiburg are lacking options out wide currently. Jeong’s deal seems to also include a buy-back clause for Bayern who may choose to exercise it if Jeong finds consistency playing at a higher level of football.
Verdict: Overall a smart decision for both the player and his ex-club. Koreans should look forward to what Jeong can offer with more exposure to higher level football. Expect to see him link up with the Senior KNT soon.
If there was a missing link who could have helped lead Korea to victory at the U-20 World Cup a few weeks ago, it was Jeong Woo-Yeong. It’s a shame that we couldn’t witness the beauty of a midfield led by him and Lee Kang-in on an international stage. With that being said, both of the star midfielders need these early playing opportunities. The problem is that there’s a possibility that JWY will end up leaving the Bayern system entirely, despite the buy-back clause. In the short term, though, JWY will be in good company, playing alongside veterans like silver-medalist striker Nils Petersen. Freiburg is a very German team, and that’s probably the best situation for a foreign player who is likely to stay in the Bundesliga for a good bulk of his career.
Verdict: With this deal’s temporary buy-back clause, I can see JWY staying with Freiburg in the long run. But can he prove his ability to show up on a world-class stage? JWY will need to make the most out of this opportunity if he sees himself back on the roster of Bayern or any of Europe’s other major players. This is a good deal in the short-term, but it has to progress into long-term achievements.
Kwon Chang-Hoon to SC Freiburg (as well)
Kwon Chang-Hoon was hotly tipped to become a key member of Korea’s 2018 World Cup squad before an unfortunate and horrific achilles tendon injury suffered on the last match of the season kept him on the sidelines for the entirety of the World Cup and half of the 2018-19 campaign. Although Kwon played an important role for Dijon the previous season and came back from his injury to help keep them in the first division, it seemed as though he had fallen out of favour with Jobard, starting from the bench throughout the latter half of the season. Much to the delight of Korean fans everywhere, Kwon Chang-Hoon will link up with his compatriot at SC Freiburg after a reported €3 million transfer bid was accepted by Dijon. Regardless of Jobard’s assessment of Kwon’s ability, Kwon was very much a fan-favourite throughout his stay at Stade Gaston Gérard and Dijon fans will be rightly disappointed about the incredibly low transfer fee.
Furthermore, speculation of another Korean player coming in to replace Kwon has been hovering around Twitter recently, but sources seem limited on that particular bit of news.
This looks to be a fantastic move for both club and player, with Korean fans set for a treat of Bundesliga fixtures. Kwon is a quality player when he isn’t hindered by injury and offers positional versatility. This should be a real test of Kwon’s ambition and adaptability, but I firmly believe Kwon has both the technical ability and mentality to succeed in Germany and if he can find his feet at Freiburg, he should very well be poised for a move to the upper echelons of European football.
Two Koreans at Freiburg? In their point of view, Freiburg have made some tidy, risk-free moves this transfer window and are bracing themselves for a huge influx in Korean followers with both Jeong and Kwon on either wing. Freiburg have made a good investment in these two players and from a marketing standpoint, are set to make their money back through television deals and brand exposure in Korea. However, as FC Augsburg once did, transfers like these keep me optimistic that the stature of Korean football is still growing, as the Bundesliga, in particular, continues to serve as a bridge between Korean players and European football.
Verdict: Freiburg have snagged themselves quite a bargain for a player who should more than double his transfer value in the coming seasons. Although Kwon’s 2-year stint at Dijon should not be considered a failure, recurring injuries and inconsistent starts for Dijon highlighted some underlying problems and Kwon has probably made a wise decision to further his development through first-team football.
Withheld from participating in the first half of the Ligue 1 season, KCH returned to club action only to redeem himself as one of Dijon’s most heroic figures. Having scored a crucial first-leg goal against Lens in the Ligue 1 relegation playoffs last month, KCH played a massive role in Dijon’s race to remain in the French first division.
Judging from the team’s young history, that’s probably the peak for the French club as far as their standings in the French first division are concerned. The young team has been unsteadily fighting for a concrete place in Ligue 1 over the last decade and will likely battle relegation again next season. KCH will need another challenge in stronger league if he wants to further his club career.
13th-placed Freiburg will likely finish lower mid-table next season. However, if they were to finish just above the relegation zone, it probably wouldn’t matter. Granted that wages are the same, I’m sure most players would rather be fighting relegation in the Bundesliga than in Ligue 1.
Verdict: Great move. KCH has been linked with the Bundesliga for quite some time now, so it’s finally great to hear that a move to Germany has now been finalized for him. It will be interesting to see how well he meshes with Jeong Woo-Yeong in the midfield, though I don’t see the two playing together week-in and week-out. If KCH can stay healthy, I have no doubts that he will have a productive season leading to a crucial appearance at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as an overage selection next summer.
P.S. The 2019-2020 Bundesliga fixture schedule was just released last Friday. Freiburg will be facing off against Mainz at home on 17/8/2019 and away on 18/1/2019. Mark your calendars. This may be one of the only opportunities ever to see three (or possibly more) Korean players competing against each other in one of the best leagues in the world.