Quick update to get something out there: if you haven’t been following our twitter feed, you won’t have noticed the big news of the day – Suk Hyunjun, the Korean national team centre forward who plies his trade for Vitoria de Setubal in the Portuguese top division, is expected to transfer to FC Porto this week. He will play his final game for his current club tomorrow against Sporting Clube de Portugal (aka Sporting Lisbon) before beginning training for FC Porto on Thursday, the Record and O Jogo report. Football List Korea expects a 5 year contract.
The 190 cm (6 ft 3) striker has found his stride this season for Vitoria de Setubal, scoring 11 goals in 19 appearances across all competitions for Quim Machado’s side, bolting him into third position on the scoring table. Suk made his Korean national team return against Laos on the 3rd of September of last year and has scored twice for the Taeguk Warriors in 6 appearances.
Suk’s strength is an asset which Korean players rarely boast as well as a powerful shot, his goal against his Academica de Coimbra being a prominent example of his deadly right foot accuracy. Despite his tall frame, Suk is less of a stereotypical centre forward and more of a player who tries to beat defenders by cutting in and firing in behind.
The 24 year old’s journey in football has been a long one -after travelling to the Netherlands in search of a new club, he met Martin Jol, asked for a trial, was granted a trial at Ajax in 2009 and signed a 2 1/2 year contract. His story is somewhat legendary in the Netherlands for its unorthodox nature and the journeyman-footballer aura it exudes. He later went to FC Groningen. In 2013 he got his first taste of Portuguese football, playing for Maritimo, but he transferred to Al-Ahli Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia, the follow season. After a swing at Nacional, he made the move to Vitoria de Setubal in January of last year. He has had immediate success there, scoring 16 goals in 40 appearances and helping them place in Europa League position at the 2015 winter break.
Suk’s transfer fee is expected to be around 1.5 million euros (1.6 million dollars US). He will have to challenge Cameroonian striker Vincent Aboubakar for starts, but given their participation in the Taça de Liga (League Cup), Taça de Portugal (FA Cup), Europa League vs Dortmund as well as the Liga NOS, there is sure to be time for Suk to start. It will be interesting to see if he will be expected to shift his game by playing with his back to goal in a more classic CF role against more dense, rigid defenses than the ones he faced with Vitoria.
Although the rumours seem quite convincing, there is no official confirmation of the deal. Portugal’s other top clubs, Bundesliga clubs and Celtic are all rumoured to have interest in Suk. Regardless of if this deal falls through, he most likely will be playing at a higher level come the end of the transfer window and it remains to be seen if he can perform among a higher tier of European players. If he succeeds, it can only be positive for his career, for the Olympic team (should they progress to Rio 2016, which is far from guaranteed) and the Korean national team.
Suk is expected to play for the Olympic team as an overage player because he does not yet have exemption from service in the Korean army, which is mandatory for all Korean men for a 21-month period between 18 and 35 years old. Exemption can be earned with winning an Asian Games gold medal or a medal of any color in the Olympic Games. If Suk continues in his current form, and because of the U-23 team’s centre forward uncertainties, there is no doubt he would be given that chance at exemption should the Korean team qualify later this month.
The 2012 Olympic team, the 2014 Asian Games team as well as the 2002 World Cup team all earned military exemption (the latter was a special exemption that was extraordinarily granted by the then Korean president).
Do you believe Suk’s transfer to Porto makes sense for him? Can he get a fair amount of starts and will he be able to perform at a higher level? Let’s get a conversation going. Leave your thoughts below in the comments section.
Thank you to @junhosix and @Takeuchee on Twitter for their contributions to this report… always good to have people more in-the-know to help out