Lee Kang-in joins Real Mallorca after Valencia cuts ties
Lee Kang-in has joined La Liga club Real Mallorca on a four-year deal, the club announced Monday.
Lee's move to Mallorca comes after Valencia terminated his contract over the weekend, ending a decade-long career at the club that started when he joined the academy at just 10 years old.
Valencia's decision to drop Lee has less to do with his performance at the club and more to do with league rules. Under La Liga rules, clubs are only allowed to have five players that are citizens of countries outside the European Union on their books, and only three on each matchday squad.
Lee had long held one of those non-EU spots, alongside Uruguayan striker Maxi Gomez and Paraguayan defender Omar Alderete. On Wednesday, the club signed Brazilian forward Marcos André, leaving four men competing for the three matchday spots. As Gomez is a regular starter and Alderete is on loan to the club, that left Lee as the odd man out.
Lee joined Valencia in 2011 and made the move up to the A team in 2018. Last season, Lee made 27 appearances for the club, many of them from the bench, but scored only one goal. But his failure to establish himself at the club is seen more as a case of untapped potential than a lack of skill.
Spanish press have been quick to rally against Valencia for the way that Lee's career at the club came to an end. After 10 years as one of the team's biggest prospects, Lee's unceremonious departure is seen as an indictment of the team's management and its failure to develop new talent.
"Lee's chapter at Valencia has come to a close," Football Espana said. "And with it, Meriton Holdings have humiliated themselves even further."
Meriton Holdings, the company through which Singaporean businessman Peter Lim owns Valencia, is at the center of the storm surrounding Lee's departure, both for their failure to develop his potential and the abrupt way he left the club.
Although the departure from Valencia was abrupt, the move to Real Mallorca could prove to be a good thing for Lee.
Mallorca are not a big name club like Valencia, but they are a La Liga team. The club has struggled over the last few years, but it has a strong footballing pedigree and continues to play alongside some of the biggest clubs in the world. For a rising star like Lee, who is still only 20, Mallorca could be a space to grow and develop as a first team player.
After spending most of his Valencia career on the bench, Mallorca is a chance for Lee to earn a regular starting spot. The club is clearly happy to have him, posting a 2-minute-long video on its official Twitter account to welcome the midfielder to the club.
Lee's career has plenty of room to grow at Mallorca, and his career is still on track with the Korean greats that came before him.
At 21, Park Ji-sung joined PSV Eindhoven, the team that would eventually set him up for a move to Manchester United. At 20, Son Heung-min joined Bayer Leverkusen, a move that would eventually lead him to Tottenham Hotspur. Lee is 20, and Mallorca could be his stepping stone to bigger things.
BY JIM BULLEY [firstname.lastname@example.org]