Another installment of the 2019-20 KPA News Roundup here on the Tavern. Enjoy!
Lee Seung-woo Clashes with Manager over Attitude Problems, Yet to Officially Appear for New Club
It’s been quite a wild ride for Lee Seung-woo since he’s left La Masia for the “greener pastures” of attempting to jumpstart his footballing career. Despite splitting time between Italy’s top two divisions, the Barcelona prodigy failed to impress enough for a spot on the roster of newly promoted Hellas Verona this season. With hope, LSW awaited a more lucrative offer from a “Top Five” European club, possibly in Spain or Germany. However, the 21-year-old would receive less impressive offers from other Italian clubs of a similar talent level.
In order to get back on track, LSW needed to do something akin to what many career politicians [should] do when they lose high-profile elections: take a break, eat a slice of humble pie, and shoot for a position more suitable to their station. For him, this meant moving to one of the increasingly common products of an East-West world sports business connection that is the Jupiler Pro League’s Sint-Truidense (STVV). There, at the end of last August, LSW would become yet another AFC signee in a list consisting mostly of youthful Japanese talents.
Despite the anticipation, however, nothing has come out of fruition for the young player in his move to South Flanders. LSW has yet to make a single official appearance for his club, long out-of-range of the average new signee’s transition period. In late October, LSW was reportedly sent back to the locker room due to an event stemming from his poor attitude in training. During an interview with Korean football YouTuber KLDH, LSW would reveal that he simply “had a disagreement with the coach” that “turned into an argument.”
His off-the-pitch problems and larger-than-life ego have driven a wedge between him and STVV manager Marc Brys. Likely fed up with his young player’s antics, he has since relegated LSW mainly to reserve duty. In a post-match interview against Gent in late October, Brys claimed that LSW needed to “stop dreaming of the past”, a clear reference to the 21-year-old’s affinity for his youth days with Barcelona.
This is far from the first time that LSW has brought turmoil between himself and his coaching staff due to an attitude problem. In his younger days, he would be quick to show his hotheadedness, even kicking an advertising board after being subbed off in a youth international match in 2015. His lack of maturity has since been criticized by both fans and the media alike and has built a wall between him and other national team players in the past.
However, it seems as if events like this have made the playing situation that much more difficult for a player who doesn’t even fit tactically into his manager’s system. Typically a winger, LSW would be forced to play a more defensive role for his new club, which relies on the consistent use of the 3-5-1 formation.
In a somewhat more hopeful light, LSW has made a couple of unofficial appearances for STVV. He reportedly made a second-half substitute appearance in a U21 match and played a full 90 minutes in a friendly against second-division Belgian club OH Leuven last week. The Canaries would end up losing the match with the advent of reserve players. Having scored a mere two goals in 40 league appearances for Verona, LSW may be forced into looking for one last stint in Europe this upcoming winter transfer window.
However, LSW’s club-level dilemma has prevented him from making his mark on the international stage. Despite his youth and potential, the Suwon native has yet to receive an international call-up since last June, when he made a substitute appearance in a friendly against Iran. LSW replaced Na Sang-ho in the 76th minute in the 1-1 stalemate. Had he been allowed to stay at Verona, he would likely be in the squad selection for the friendly against Brazil this Tuesday.
But he’s not. And that’s a serious problem for someone who was seemingly on the quest to becoming one of Asia’s biggest stars a few years ago. If LSW continues to let his ego precede his chances to impress in playing opportunities, he may be back on track to returning back to his footballing roots. Some fans have called for him to return back to the K-League altogether, and it might be the move of humility he needs to revamp his career.
Five years ago, the Tavern was contemplating whether LSW, at the age of 16, should be fast-tracked for development on the international stage. Now, it seems as if Korean football fans reserve this sentiment for more promising youth talents in Europe: Lee Kang-in, Jeong Woo-yeong, and Paik Seung-ho. Should those in the LSW camp be getting ready to hit the panic button at this stage of his career? Feel free to let us know what you think in the comments below.
Bonus: Lee Jae-sung Lights It Up in the German Second Division
After coming off an underwhelming first season in 2. Bundesliga, Lee Jae-sung has come out of the gate firing this season for Holstein Kiel. The former K-League star has now scored seven goals in 15 matches in all competitions this season, including the first goal in the 2. Bundesliga’s Korean derby (which involved this incredibly strange penalty incident). This could very well mark the first ever professional season in which LJS scores 10 league goals; he came closest to this mark when he scored nine in his final season with Jeonbuk.
The 27-year-old’s role has changed quite a bit since making his move to Germany over a year ago. LJS has now adopted more of an attacking role, moving more consistently into the box to score rather than attempting to open passing lanes for assists. This is reflected in the statlines: LJS only has two assists in all competitions this season in comparison to the 10 he created last season. His career season-high is 17, which he notched with Jeonbuk in 2016.
Kiel currently sits 12th in the 2. Bundesliga standings, so LJS has quite some work to do if he wants to ensure that his club doesn’t face relegation this season. His efforts have been fruitful so far, but he may look to diversify his playing style to emphasize scoring and opening up scoring opportunities at the same time.
LJS made an appearance in the KNT’s World Cup qualifier against Lebanon, subbed off in the second half for Lee Kang-in. He is likely to make a midfield appearance against Brazil this Tuesday. Hopefully he can keep up his proper form with the national team in forthcoming days.