The Bundesliga’s growing trend in attracting more foreign players in the past two decades have opened the door for Korean Footballers as well. 40 years ago, Cha Bum Kun left a mark on the German League and turned European scouts’ eyes to the potential of future Korean players. 40 years later and more than 20 Koreans have came and gone in the Bundesliga.
The Bundesliga has been sought out by many Korean players who wish to make their European debuts and many German clubs welcomed them with open arms. Players such as Koo Jacheol, Son Heungmin, Hong Jeongho, Park Jooho, Lee Youngpyo, Ji Dongwon, and many more have followed in Cha’s footsteps.
As the 2020-21 season begins next week, there will be 7 korean players in German leagues. So let me explain to you why I’m more excited about this season than others before!
I would have to admit, most of my excitement comes from the arrival of Hwang Heechan to RB Leipzig from Salzburg. Last season, Hwang Heechan garnered a lot of attention from other European clubs such as Everton and Wolverhampton. It would have been a great opportunity for Hwang to play for a legendary manager like Carlo Ancelotti and play in the Premier League, but I believe that Hwang Heechan made the right decision to play for Nagelsmann at Leipzig. He will fit perfectly in Nagelsmann’s high pace, high press, and non-stop running team. Hwang has stated that a big reason why he chose Leipzig was his conversation with the manager and how he fits into the team’s tactics. He will play as their main striker in a free flowing two striker system where you might see Hwang play in from the wings too. We will see him play the role that Timo Werner played before leaving for Chelsea. Hwang Heechan will be expected to run all around the final half of the pitch and not only score but also create opportunities for his teammates. Even though Hwang has not played a full game with the squad, I have no doubt that he will be featured in their first league match against Mainz FC. We might be able to see him earlier than next week if he plays tomorrow against Nurnberg in the DFB-Pokal Cup match. My predictions for Hwang is that he will score at least 15 goals and more than 10 assists in all competitions.
This season might be the turning point for the two Koreans at SC Freiburg, Kwon Changhoon and Jeong Wooyeong. SC Freiburg is led by Christian Freich, who isn’t one of the most flexible managers and doesn’t like to change tactics or line ups too often which saw Kwon Changhoon riding the bench for most of last season and Jeong Wooyeong going out on loan to Bayern Munich II, playing in the 3.Liga (third tier). The departure of Luca Waldschmidt to Benfica has opened up an opportunity for Kwon Changhoon to step in as his replacement. Kwon has featured in every preseason friendly for Freiburg and showed a little bit of his Dijon form. He showed his ability to create space and dribble past defenders. If Kwon is able to stack up a few good performances, I think he will be a regular starter by mid season. I would be happy if he scores more than 7 goals in all competitions, but in all honesty, I would just like for him to play regular minutes.
Jeong Wooyeong is about to be 21 years old and can no longer be considered a “potential” player. It will be hard, but he must take full advantage of this season to play in the top flight and show that he belongs in the first division. He featured in all of the team’s preseason games as well, but he played more up top, almost like a second striker who plays wide. This actually fit him well as he scored two goals and was able to show off his speed. I think Jeong will be a rotation player who can earn his spot as the back up striker. He will absolutely feature more than he did last year, but it will be up to him to impress the gaffer. What I am sure of is that he will score his debut goal this season.
Ji Dongwon will be coming up on his 7th year in the Bundesliga. Recently, he has been plagued by injuries and underwhelming performances, but he was once linked with Borussia Dortmund and other Premier League teams. Last year, he scored a screamer early on in the season and picked up a season ending injury from his celebration. He was able to play a few more games towards the end of the year, but was not able to impress. The 29 year old still has way more to offer in the Bundesliga and barring any more injuries, Ji will impress the fans again. My hopes are that he will be featured in the season opener against Leipzig and it turns into a Korean Derby. My Bundesliga season will be fulfilled if Ji and Hwang both score in the match.
Augsburg FC still has a Korean player on their roster if you didn’t know. Cheon Seong Hoon joined the club’s U-19 squad in 2018 and was promoted to the senior team at the end of 2019. He was featured in Augsburg’s interview of their Korean players with Ji and Koo, but never got his debut on the pitch. Cheon is still considered as a potential youngster by Augsburg and it will be tough for him to even make the squad on match days, but I do believe that he will make his debut this year during garbage time.
Lee Jae Sung has spent two years in 2.Bundesliga with Holstein Kiel and has put in a solid effort. In 2018, his decision to move to a second division European team as the best player in the K League was solely based on his desire to immediately play as a starter in order for him to develop further. He has done his time and has proved that he is more than capable to play in the next level. It is unlikely that Holstein Kiel will sell him in the summer transfer window as the current offers are probably not as lucrative as they would like, but it wont take much for a 1st division team to come asking for Lee’s services by the January transfer window. Lee Jaesung will make his Bundesliga debut soon if all goes according to plan!
Last but not least is Paik Seungho, who also plays in the 2.Bundesliga for SV Darmstadt. He’s definitely one of my favorite “up and coming” young Korean players. At Darmstadt, he plays more of the holding midfielder who spreads and controls the offense with his passes. He is really good at holding the ball and moves the ball up the field with a lot of composure. These attributes earned him spot as a regular starter last season. This preseason, he has played more up front in the mid field to create more scoring chances for his teammates. He put in some impressive performances during the preseason against teams such as Norwich FC and Vitesse. Paik has the skills to get some love calls from 1st division teams in the near future if he is able to dominate in the midfield during the upcoming season. In addition, he may even be a part of Darmstadt’s run towards promotion to the Bundesliga. This is primed to be his most successful professional season thus far!