Swansea sets two transfer-fee records with Ki

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Swansea sets two transfer-fee records with Ki

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Ki Sung-yueng reacts to the fans’ welcome at Liberty Stadium in Swansea, Wales, on Saturday, ahead of the team’s game with West Ham. [AP/YONHAP]

Ki Sung-yueng received a standing ovation at Swansea’s Liberty Stadium on Saturday as he was introduced to home fans for the first time since becoming the most expensive player joining the only Welsh club in the English Premier League.

During the brief introduction ahead of the game against West Ham, fans shouted Ki’s name in anticipation of what the 23-year-old midfielder will bring to the club. He signed a three-year contract on Friday, a few days after Celtic agreed to let go of him despite there still being around 18 months left on his four-year contract with the Scottish club.

The transfer fee, although not officially disclosed, represented a new record high for Swansea, according to its Web site. The former Championship side spent its first season in the EPL last year, when it finished midway down the table at 11th. British media reported Ki’s transfer fee to be around £5.5 million ($7.9 million).

If the reports prove true it would make Ki the most expensive Korean player in the league, ahead of even star midfielder Park Ji-sung.

Park, 31, became the first Korean to play in England’s top flight when he moved from Dutch outfit PSV Eindhoven to Manchester United in 2005 for an estimated £4 million.

In July, he smashed his own record by commanding a transfer fee of £5 million to move to Queens Park Rangers.

“This is something I’ve dreamed about since I was a child - playing in the Premier League against the best players in the world,” Ki told Swansea’s Web site. “I can’t wait to play my first game.”

Although still lacking a work permit, Ki is expected to debut for Swansea in its home match against Barnsley on Tuesday night.

Previously, Ki was linked to such teams as Arsenal, Liverpool, Fulham and QPR, all in the EPL, and Atletico Madrid in Spain’s La Liga. He has been exempted from his mandatory 21-month military service by virtue of winning a bronze medal at the recently ended London Olympics.

He said he was attracted to Swansea’s growth potential and the club’s passing-focused style of play. The presence of coach Michael Laudrup, a former Danish star who played for Barcelona, was another selling point, Ki said.

“I remember watching him when I was younger and I was amazed by how good he was,” Ki said. “Now I want to learn from him to become a better player.”

Laudrup spoke highly of Ki’s experience in British football. Ki, who helped Celtic lift the Scottish championship trophy last season with six goals, also scored in Korea’s penalty shootout against host Great Britain to advance to the semifinals at the Olympics. The game was also played in Wales.

Now the boss expects Ki to plug the gap left by Joe Allen, who recently departed for Liverpool.

Ki follows Park Ji-sung, Lee Young-pyo, Seol Ki-hyeon, Lee Dong-gook, Kim Doo-hyun, Cho Won-hee, Lee Chung-yong, Ji Dong-won and Park Chu-young to stand as Korea’s 10th EPL player. Four remain in the league, including Ki.

By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]
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