Friday, September 11, 2009

Ki Ready For Celtic Test

Ki Ready For Celtic Test.
There is always a last-minute move before the European transfer window slams shut at the end of August but the latest deal to be made involving a South Korean star came so late that it will actually take place at the start of 2010.

Ki Sung-yong has signed for Scotland titans Glasgow Celtic but will join the team next January. The 20 year-old is as highly-rated as they come and despite his tender age, is already an established international and one of Asia’s hottest properties.

"I don't see him making a big impact on the team right now. If he does come, then I'd suggest it's something for the future,” said Celtic head coach Tony Mowbray just before the deal was done. "He's a young player with potential. Every player we sign is a big signing, but this kid has potential."

The reason why Ki is staying in the Land of the Morning Calm for the rest of the year is the simple fact that his club FC Seoul was not prepared to sell him before 2010. Seoul is leading the K-League and the team is preparing for the quarterfinals of the Asian Champions League. The midfielder is a vital part of the Seoul set-up.

"In the beginning there was talk of a transfer in August, but it was pushed to January because of our team’s circumstances,” FC Seoul General Manager Han Woong-soo said. “Now it’s win-win for both clubs.”

The transfer fee is reported to be around $3.5 million but the player cares only about his next challenge.

I chatted to the youngster recently who is looking forward to the challenge.

“I think that Celtic are a good club for me because first of all, Celtic are a great club," Ki said.

"Also, I think I will get a lot of chances to play and this is important for me because I need to play ahead of the World Cup next year.”

Ki has been linked to a number of European clubs such as PSV Eindhoven, Hamburg and Porto and while he is interested in a move to England, that can come later.

“There was an offer from a Premier League club Portsmouth but I think that Celtic are a better club and I think that I am not good enough to play in the Premier League yet.

"I will get more experience in Scotland and then see what happens. First, I have to adapt to a new life.”

Ki is bursting to show Celtic fans what he can do.

“I am still a young player and have lots of energy to play defensively and offensively. I can also help with set pieces. I met Scott McDonald and he said that Celtic are a very good club and have lots of fans every game and a full stadium.”

For Seoul fans it is a little disappointing as only last month, fellow young international Lee Chung-yong left for Bolton Wanderers in a similarly-priced deal. In the space of a few weeks, the club’s, and perhaps the country’s, brightest young talents have both agreed to leave.

For Ki however, the move is a chance to sample life in Europe and he sees Scotland as an introduction and a stepping stone on the way to the English Premier League – the place where he wants to end up.

He has the tools to succeed. Tall, skilful and technically very able, Ki could be a star. He also speaks English after spending some of his childhood in Australia. The rough-and-tumble of the K-League should prepare the player for the rough-and-tumble of Scotland, though the long winter nights could be a shock to the system.

That will give him time to settle in to Scottish life. Not much is known about Celtic in Korea, Scotland has yet to appear in the collective consciousness of the Korean soccer fan. Most know that Japanese star Shunsuke Nakamura spent four seasons with the Glasgow giants but little else. Celtic, and city rivals Rangers, are huge clubs and regularly play in front of 60,000 fans with millions more spread around the world.

Only problem is for Ki is that if you take the Old Firm out of the equation then what is left is not too inspiring. Scottish football is in the doldrums. Celtic was dumped out of the Champions League 5-1 on aggregate by an Arsenal team that barely broke sweat.

But at least Celtic actually participate in Europe every season and that is a big part of the attraction for Ki.

Whatever happens, it is going to be an interesting chapter in what is sure to be a successful story.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

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