Cup’s over, it’s time to cash inDespite their early exit from the World Cup, several Korean players have already drawn interest from European professional clubs.
Midfielder Lee Ho and defender Kim Dong-jin are joining former national coach Dick Advocaat in Russia’s Zenit St. Petersburg.
Ahn Jung-hwan, who scored the game-winning goal against Togo in the first round, is currently a member of MSV Duisburg of Germany’s Bundesliga, but is attracting interest from other clubs, including the Heart of Midlothian in the Scottish Premier League.
Valdas Ivanauskas, new head coach of Hearts, told BBC Sport earlier this week that Ahn is “one of the candidates for a position.” According to the BBC report, Ahn’s agent Tom Sanders claimed Hearts have already agreed to a transfer fee of around 750,000 Euros ($959,250) for the 30-year-old forward. The agent has confirmed there is a clause in Ahn’s current contract that allows him to leave Duisburg for that amount.
“We have spoken about the salary and talks are going on,” Sanders was quoted as saying.
In late May, the BBC reported that Ahn’s camp was waiting for Hearts to settle on its head coaching situation. Ivanauskas, who was then interim head coach, was appointed on a full-time basis on June 30.
Ahn has also played for Italy’s Perugia, Japan’s Shimizu S-Pulse and Yokohama F. Marinos and France’s FC Metz.
Late last month, Cho Jae-jin, the starting striker in all three Korean games, was named to British newspaper The Guardian’s list of “Six Top Talents Made for the [English] Premiership.” Currently playing for Japanese club Shimizu S-Pulse, Cho was praised for his efforts in Korea’s 2-0 loss against Switzerland.
“The Korean looked a colossus in the air when playing against Switzerland, particularly in the second half,” David Pleat wrote for the Guardian. “His energetic running constantly troubled the Swiss defense as he foraged down the channels.”
Lee Chun-soo, who scored the equalizer against Togo in Korea’s opening match, is the latest national team player to find himself as a target of international clubs, according to his agent Kim Jae-min.
In an interview with local sports daily Sportskhan, Kim was quoted as saying, “There are four English Premier League clubs and two Bundesliga clubs that have shown interest in Lee.” However, the agent didn’t disclose the names of the clubs and their proposals, only saying, “The talks are going well, and we might have something more concrete next week.”
Following the 2002 World Cup, Lee became the first Korean to play in Spain, joining Real Sociedad. But after a mediocre season, in which he didn’t score a goal in 13 matches, he was sent on loan to another Spanish side Numancia, before returning to Korea last year.
“Obviously, the history of the team and the details of the contract will be important,” Kim told Sportskhan. “But what’s more critical is whether Lee will get the chance to play. He’s learned his lessons from his struggles in Spain, and he wants to be as prepared as possible.”
Midfielder Lee Eul-yong has also caught the attention of European scouts. Following the 2002 World Cup, he was the first national team player to join a European club, Turkey’s Trabzonspor. His contract with the team expires this month.
And several players followed his footsteps to international teams. Park Ji-sung and Lee Young-pyo, in particular, followed their then-national team coach Guus Hiddink to the Dutch league’s PSV Eindhoven. Both players are with English Premier League, with Park a member of Manchester United and Lee playing for Tottenham Hotspur.
by Yoo Jee-ho