Lee Chung-yong heads back to Premier League

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Lee Chung-yong heads back to Premier League

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Crystal Palace FC officially announced Tuesday that it signed Lee Chung-yong for three and a half years. Lee, who spent five and a half years with the Bolton Wanderers, will finally be playing in the English Premier League again. Captured from Crystal Palace official webpage

“Blue Dragon” Lee Chung-yong will return to the first-tier English Premier League (EPL) after signing with Crystal Palace FC, ending his nearly six-year run with the Bolton Wanderers.

Crystal Palace, currently ranked 13th in the EPL, announced Tuesday that it signed Lee for three and a half years for 1 million pounds ($1.5 million). Lee said he wanted to leave Bolton after the team was relegated to the second-tier Football League Championship in 2013.

The Wanderers posted a statement on its website saying, “Korea Republic international departs Macron Stadium after five-and-a-half seasons.

“[The] Bolton Wanderers would like to thank Lee for his contributions during his time at the club and wish him well in his future endeavors.”

Lee, who plays as a winger, has been a key member of the team, appearing in 195 games and scoring 20 goals since he moved to Bolton from FC Seoul in 2009. Part of the reason Bolton dropped down to the Football League Championship was because Lee was out for nearly a year after breaking his tibia in a pre-season match in 2012.

According to a source in the player market, Lee had a special relationship with the Wanderers. The club reportedly offered to extend his contract under excellent conditions in December, but Lee insisted on returning to the Premier League.

Instead of persuading him to stay, the club decided to help him. Manager Neil Lennon, who took over the team in October, made sure Lee was on the field every game and often said that he was the best player of the team, helping his chances of making it onto the Premier League side.

When the transfer window opened on Jan. 3, no clubs had contacted Bolton about Lee. Hull City AFC and Sunderland AFC were considering a deal, but didn’t contact Lee until he had left for the Asian Cup in Australia.

But Crystal Palace was the first club to start negotiations. Though Lee was injured in the first group match against Oman on Jan. 10, Bolton and Crystal Palace finalized the deal to move him to the London-based team for 500,000 pounds as a transfer fee. The club will get another 500,000 pounds if the Eagles stay in the EPL next season.

The Wanderers paid FC Seoul 2.2 million pounds in 2009 but after six years, the club seems willing to do what’s best for the 26-year-old footballer.

“English clubs never make deals like this, and it is an extraordinary case for a club to send its key player away like that,” said a source in the transfer market. “It’s probably because the club liked him for his attitude. They had tons of positive comments about him, too.”

Crystal Palace Manager Alan Pardew has been interested in acquiring Lee for years, even when he was managing Newcastle United FC from 2010 to 2014. Pardew, 53, is pushing Crystal Palace to stay in the Premier League next season and will look to Lee to help the club expand its lead over teams in the relegation area. The team is now 13th in the standings with a record of 5-10-8, but is only four points ahead of 18th-ranked Hull City AFC and 19th-ranked Queens Park Rangers FC.

BY KIM BONG-MOON, KIM MIN-GYU [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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