Thursday, July 17, 2008

Mixed Summer Weather For Korea's Overseas Stars

rice farmer Seol.
Football is non-stop these days. No sooner did the European club season finish then the European championships started for 16 nations. Now just days after Spain lifted the continental trophy most clubs have started pre-season training and talk in the big leagues is who will go where before the new season gets underway.

What about South Korea’s overseas contingent? Well, it is a summer of uncertainty for many though that certainly can’t be said for perennial golden boy Park Ji-sung. Slight knee troubles apart, the 27 year-old is set for a good season in Manchester. It is only two months since the attacker collected a second English Premier League medal and less than that since the club lifted the European Champions League trophy.

It was a successful season for Park and next season, providing he steers clear of injury could be even better. This time last year he was recovering from major knee surgery and still five months away from a return to action and the fact that United coach Sir Alex Ferguson was more than active in the transfer market didn’t help. This has been a quiet summer so far at Old Trafford though that could change very quickly if Real Madrid gets its way and buys star player Christiano Ronaldo for a world record transfer deal.

There are likely to be few records broken elsewhere. Lee Young-pyo, who starred at PSV Eindhoven along Park from 2002-2005 is set to leave Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur and return to the Dutch team. After two and a half steady, if unspectacular, seasons in North London, Lee fell out of favor with Spanish boss Juande Ramos around the turn of the year and had to watch much of the second half of the season from the bench. At the age of 31 and with his place in the national team under serious threat, Lee needs to be playing regular football and is keen to head back across the North Sea to PSV and the Netherlands.

Probably on his way out of Holland is Lee Chun-soo. The winger signed for Feyenoord for around $3 million last August. It hasn’t been a successful season for ‘The Millenium Kid’ in Rotterdam. He first suffered from homesickness and then an ankle injury. He is now back in Korea recovering from surgery and he could be about to stay in the Land of the Morning Calm permanently -if any Korean club is prepared to offer the asking price.

Seol Ki-hyeon is keen to stay where he is. The Sniper is still a Fulham player and later this month will tour South Korea with the London club. When the games in Busan and Ulsan are over, he could also be out of the door at Craven Cottage. The powerful attacker hasn’t featured in a league match since January and with boss Roy Hodgson set to splash the cash ahead of the new season, Seol has to show that he is still worth a spot in the starting eleven. He is ready to do just that as he told reporters at Incheon airport last week (looking like a psychedelic rice farmer). “There has been nothing happening, I have just been resting. The important thing from now is to play as well to stay with the team.”


Lee Dong-guk is definitely on the move, the only question is to where? The Lion King’s contract at Premier League club Middlesbrough ended last month with the striker having failed to score a single league goal since arriving in England in January 2007. It was a time to forget for the former Pohang Steelers star who is also banned from the national team until the end of this year. Lee would like to stay in England but anywhere in Europe would be acceptable. Until now however, Japanese clubs are the most interested suitors.

There are no such worries for the ‘fifth Premier Leaguer’ - as he is known by the Seoul media – yet.. Kim Do-heon is a relative newcomer and only joined West Brom on a full transfer in May. The midfielder first headed to England in January on a loan deal. He did enough to secure a permanent deal and the Birmingham club did enough to earn promotion to England’s top division.

There is still much time left this summer for deals to done and contracts signed and it will be interesting to see where the Korean stars end up when the first ball is kicked at the start of the 2008-09 European season.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

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