Is this the end of the road for Bordeaux and Hwang Ui-jo?
Bordeaux top scorer Hwang Ui-jo looks likely to leave the recently-relegated club this summer, with French media this week reporting that Ligue 1 runners-up Marseille are among the clubs interested in the Korean striker.
Hwang is no stranger to transfer rumors — along with Fenerbahce center back Kim Min-jae he is probably the most speculated on Korean footballer active right now — and is said to have come very close to leaving Bordeaux at least twice in the last year.
In the summer of 2021, Hwang, who had been Bordeaux's top scorer in the 2020-21 season with 12 goals, was linked to clubs across Europe, with a last-minute deal with either an unnamed wealthy Russian club or Portuguese club Sporting Lisbon apparently falling through in the dying hours of the transfer window.
In January, Hwang was again expected to make a move, although a flurry of goals — including a hat trick against Strasbourg on January 23 — effectively closed that window.
Hwang's popularity as a possible transfer is largely a matter of economics. Although a crucial part of the Bordeaux attacking lineup, Hwang has been seen in the past as an easy way for cash-strapped Bordeaux to make a quick buck, with even the official Ligue 1 website listing him as one of the top players to watch during the summer transfer window.
As a result, a Hwang deal is potentially always on the card, with Bordeaux still as in need of money and Hwang's performance on the field making him an increasingly strong candidate.
But in January, with Bordeaux in the midst of a terrible season, the risk of selling Hwang was likely just too high. He ended the season the 2021-22 season with 11 goals, again leading the club, but could do little to save Bordeaux from a last-place finish and relegation to Ligue 2.
Now that the dust has settled on the season and money is probably back to being more important than goals, Hwang becomes a far more valuable commodity as a transfer option.
With only one year left on his four-year contract, Bordeaux benefit most from accepting a transfer deal for Hwang now while they still control his contract. And with the French club headed for Ligue 2 next season, Hwang is also presumably very clear to move on to significantly greener pastures.
French newspaper 20 minutes reported last week that Hwang has seen interest from Nantes, Montpellier and Marseille, with Hwang reportedly hoping for an offer from an English or German club.
With Bordeaux reportedly only asking for 5 million euros ($6.7 million) for Hwang, it seems likely he could be on the move soon.
BY JIM BULLEY [email@example.com]