August 10, 2018
We’re on the precipice, another Premier League season gearing up to start and other top flight leagues in Europe not far behind – another season of wonderment as the world’s best footballers carve out new pathways, new storylines, campaigns to conquer, and obstacles to overcome. For aficionados keeping tabs on Korean footballers plying the trade, it is a season staring at the future. I state this as more Korean ballers are facing uncertainty in Europe. Lee Chung-Yong once burned brightly in uniform for Bolton, showing off one scintillating performance after another in the Premier League when he transferred in from FC Seoul in 2009; he left Crystal Palace over the summer after incredibly bad luck not having gotten his wish to transfer back to Bolton during the winter transfer window – and now his work permit in England is null and void. Steve Han reported this about Lee’s efforts to keep playing in the environs of Europe:
Lee Chung-yong recently turned down $1 million USD in annual salary offered by an unnamed K League club. He’s willing to take a paycut to remain in Europe.
— Steve Han • 한만성 (@RealSteveScores) August 9, 2018
There’s Kwon Chang-Hoon, who when we last checked in on him had a gangbuster breakthrough season for Dijon in Ligue 1, into double digits and on his way to a World Cup spot for Korea in the summer when he suffered a horrific achilles heel rupture suffered at the hands of a bad tackle in the last 10 minutes of the last game of the season. It will take several long months to fully recover.
Ki Sung-Yeung jumped ship at relegated Swansea and landed at Rafa Benitez led Newcastle, a club that struggled but managed to stay up in the premiership last season. Time will soon tell if he make the right move, but for now, relief that Korea’s captain can keep steering the course at another Premiership club.
Ji Dong-Won‘s loan to 2.Bundesliga side Darmstadt is over and he’s back with his parent club at Augsburg, a positive move back to the top flight, but will he return to the fiery form that helped saved Augsburg in 2013? He’ll re-join Koo Ja-Cheol who had a decent, if slightly lower key season for Augsburg last year.
Lee Seung-Woo‘s club Hellas Verona went down last season, but there is hope that the 20 year old ex Barca academy product will continue his learning curve going in a positive direction in Serie B. He’s off to Korea along with Red Bull Salzburg’s Hwang Hee-Chan to ready themselves for the Asian Games – partially the subject of the last Tavern piece detailing the pathways Son Heung-Min could take toward earning military exemption (or conscription) – check it out if you haven’t done so already – there’s a shocking twist in the plot.
Son right now is the man of the hour – he who scored a goal against Germany and brought down the house in the shocking 2-0 win over the defending World Cup champs. Son’s goal nearly brought Spurs advancing past the Champions League quarterfinals against Juventus. The Asian Player of the Year for his tremendous output for his north London club – his continuation of his career all hinges on earning military exemption. He’ll be in the starting lineup for Tottenham as they visit Newcastle and he’ll square off against his friend Ki Sung-Yeung – he’ll board the plane that will take him to take his fate into his hands. As I mentioned in the Pathways for Son article, for both Spurs and for Son, it is a high stakes gamble with no certainties. Son apologized to his teammates for leaving them in this predicament, with 9 exhausted players to cobble together a squad after representing their respective nations in the World Cup – it’s even more of a tightrope as Tottenham becomes the first club ever to not transfer in any new players in the summer transfer window.
And yet, there are bright spots in the horizon. Lee Jae-Sung finally completed a long awaited move to Europe, but not in the way he or his K-League 1 club anticipated.
Lee Jae-sung reportedly rejected offers from FC Midtjylland and Guingamp FC. Fulham also wanted to sign him, but work permit issues blocked the transfer. #kleague
— Korea Football News (@KORFootballNews) July 27, 2018
Work permit issues in England tightening work permit rules made it very difficult for players outside of a top 50 FIFA ranked nation to transfer in. Despite Korea knocking out FIFA ranked #1 Germany in the World Cup, the rankings have yet to be updated, not in enough time to help out Lee for a transfer to recently promoted Premier League side Fulham. So it was with hand wringing and a low transfer fee that reluctantly saw Jeonbuk lose Lee Jae-Sung, one of the best, if not the best player in the K-League to a 2.Bundesliga side in Holstein Kiel. And yet, if what we witnessed when Lee Jae-Sung bossed around relegated Hamburg SV to victory 3-0 to start the season with a bang, the 2.Bundesliga player of the week may find a way to catch the attention of the top clubs in Europe before long – that is unless he leads his side to promotion to the top flight first.
Check out his sublime performance against Hamburg last week:
Lee Kang-In, the 17 year old wonderkid for Valencia, inked a new deal and saw him get some minutes in a preseason summer tour with Valencia’s first squad. He’s still training with the first team and this is on the heels of having become the first Korean to play for Valencia’s A team.
Jeong Woo-Yeong nearly notched his first goal for Bayern Munich in their ICC preseason tour of the US a few weeks ago – on US national TV no less. It’s likely he’ll be back to Bayern’s reserve squad but the 18 year old may yet have a bright future ahead of him.
And then there’s the journeyman Suk Hyun-Jun. If there’s one story that has really captured the imagination of Tavern goers, it’s this man, who 9 years ago as a young brash 18 year old, knocked on the doors of the famed Ajax club and demanded a trial. What did Martin Jol think when he first saw this gangly 19 year old walk through the doors and walked onto the pitch to show what he had in his locker? Remarkably, he signed up Suk in Ocotber 2009 and the rest of his remarkable journeyman career is the stuff of Korean football legend. Not that he was decorated in the same way as Park Ji-Sung – nor for scoring goals in Korean uniform – but for persevering and finding ways to stay in the game. Earlier this week, his relegated side Troyes confirmed what was long rumored this summer – a transfer near the end of the summer window to recently promoted Ligue 1 side Reims on a 4 year deal. He’ll don the #10 jersey. But didn’t he just turn age 27 and wasn’t selected as part of the Asian Games squad? Will he have to return to Korea to serve his military duty? There is certainly an interesting story behind this – but for now we’ll leave you with this cliffhanger of the unknown.
Yet to be determined is if Kim Young-Gwon will get his long awaited transfer to Europe and Daegu heroic keeper Cho Hyun-Woo – should he get exemption via Asian Games gold medal – will he eventually make the move?
Well time is running out here at the Tavern to keep writing. Let’s go to Korean Footballers Abroad for the weekend listing / TV and times listed for US EST. Keep in mind, the weekend listing is a long time Tavern feature we may or may not continue as we transition to a more expository kind of football site. Think In Bed With Maradona, but all about Korean footy as a focus. Let’s hit it homies:
Tuesday, August 7, 2018
A new season is about to start but sadly there’s a reduction in the number of Korean players in a high enough tier of European football to be on US TV.
That said, it seems Suk Hyun Jun is on the verge of moving back to L1 with Reims but I’ll wait until confirmation on that front. I have KCH on here as a reminder to myself about status but I’m not going to dig around on BeIn’s terrible website to see if Dijon will be televised.
As for moves, I don’t foresee anything right now. The PL window is relatively moot for Korean players given difficulty in getting a permit. Ji is probably the highest probability to move but even there I don’t see him moving in this window.
And as usual, its very difficult to know how these teams will line up in the first match, and doubly so after WC where players have not had the usual integration time.
|Saturday||7:30 AM||Ki Sung Yueng||Newcastle||Tottenham||NBCSN|
|Saturday||7:30 AM||Son Heung Min||Tottenham||@Newcastle||NCBSN|
|Saturday||2:00 PM||Kwon Chang Hoon||Dijon||@Montpelier|
|Summer Break||Ji Dong Won||Augsburg|
|Summer Break||Koo Ja Cheol||Augsburg|
Ki Sung Yueng— A bit surprising to see Ki Sung Yueng move to an at-risk club like Newcastle which is in limbo with its owner, struggled to survive last season and has a variety of DM/CM players. Of course, Ki’s in a different phase of his career so the desire to play for Rafa Benitez may have been a factor as might have been worse offers otherwise. He’s been very slow in his recovery from WC and the injury he suffered. He did play a lot in the final friendly when Diame got hurt and looked pretty good except for a continued lack of mobility. Was it enough to start? I don’t know but Ki should be in the squad.
Son Heung Min— Son should start given limited alternatives though he may have to play up front with Kane only just returning. Son’s had a mixed start to his preseason after a good WC. He’ll only have a match or two before he goes and plays for his freedom from military duty so hopefully he makes them count.
Kwon Chang Hoon— Out with torn achilles and to keep myself from getting sad, I won’t post this repetitively until he seems nearer to a return.
Ji Dong Won— He started the last friendly and played a half with a baby born and an arm injury in between the two. In the half, he played well and did ok in the latest as well, though Augsburg really struggled in general to get any offensive players involved. With lots of injuries, Ji could have a big role to start this season… except he picked up a knock of his own in the final minutes of the latest friendly. We’ll see where he’s at in the coming weeks.
Koo Ja Cheol— He was late to arrive after WC and picked up some sorta injury in between so I’m not sure where he’s at in his preparation.
In addition, the K League 1 season continues onward, we’re onto round 22 (of 33). What’s exciting for those in the US and Canada, with the Naver app K League 1 and K League 2 games are no longer geoblocked. Listing are thanks to Soccerway.com – times listed are in US EST
|Sat||11/08/18||Jeonbuk Motors||06 : 00||Gangwon|
|Jeju United||06 : 00||Pohang Steelers|
|Daegu||06 : 00||Incheon United|
|Sun||12/08/18||Ulsan||06 : 00||Suwon Bluewings|
|Gyeongnam||06 : 00||Jeonnam Dragons|
|Sangju Sangmu||06 : 30||Seoul|
I’ll try to be back for a kickaround sometime next week, time permitting. We’re approaching the 6th anniversary of the Tavern – please consider contributing to the Tavern’s Patreon account – we are eternally grateful for everyone that’s helping to keep the lights on at the Tavern! Until then, chal ga-yo!