Friday, July 23, 2010

Transfer Mill Starts To Grind In South Korea

K.League.
In between football seasons comes the silly season - a time when clubs are looking for new players and vice-versa. The internet bulges with stories of interest, denials, refusals, offers, medical tests, breakdowns and then, sometimes, a picture of a beaming player wearing a new club shirt.

The World Cup comes around every four years to add extra impetus. The global stage acts as a month-long advertisement for players. In Korea’s case it lasted almost three weeks but it was enough to set a few wheels in motion.

Potentially the biggest transfer of a South Korean player this summer is that of Park Chu-young. The striker, who turned 25 last week, already plies his trade in Europe and has been with AS Monaco since August 2008. His solid performances in France were noticed in bigger leagues and then his impressive displays in South Africa, have, according to reports, persuaded English Premier League clubs to check their bank balances to find the $10 million or so that would be necessary to buy him.

Monaco doesn’t want to sell but that doesn’t always matter in the modern transfer market. The Ligue One team played an exhibition against Incheon United on July 11 after which coach Guy Lacombe was quizzed by local journalists about the future of the former FC Seoul star. The boss said the usual stuff about that ‘Park is a Monaco player’ but admitted that ‘never’ was not a common word in the lexicon of football.

The English media took notice of such remarks and so did, according to reports, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Everton, Aston Villa and Fulham. It is an impressive list and while such reports should often be served with a pinch of salt, there is a gathering of momentum that suggests that Park will be on his way north before the end of the summer. It will be a move welcomed by a Korean media that likes to see its stars in England, the most popular league in the world.

Those journalists would probably choose Liverpool, 18-time English and five-time European champions, as the preferred destination. With Park Ji-sung at Manchester United, another Park at United’s great rival just up the road would add an interesting extra sub-plot ahead of the new season.

New Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson, who hardly selected Seol Ki-hyeon in his time at Fulham, has asked the club’s loyal fans that if they have to read transfer reports, not to read too much into them."We are looking to add to and improve the squad, but I prefer not to talk or say what we are doing until we have something concrete to announce,” he told the club’s website. "We are being linked with players left, right and centre and it amuses me that we are sometimes linked with players we haven't even heard of.”

The well-travelled Hodgson has certainly heard of Park as it has been claimed in England and Korea that he tried to buy the star for former club Fulham in April 2009 only for the player to choose to stay by the Mediterranean rather than move to the London club with a stadium on the banks of the River Thames. Liverpool, as one of the biggest clubs in Europe, would be a different proposition despite the fact the club is in debt and seeking new owners.

Before the World Cup not many had heard of Cho Yong-hyung but the Jeju United defender played in all four games in South Africa and could be about to move direct from the K-League to the Premier League, something just two players, Lee’s Chung-young and Dong-gook, have done before.

The agent of the softly-spoken star has been happy to publicly declare interest. "Aston Villa and a few other European clubs have shown interest," said Yoon Ki-yeon. "I can confirm that he is on their transfer list and I expect the official deal will be made after the World Cup."

Some moves had been completed already. Cha Du-ri lined up in South Africa along with Ki Sung-yong and now the son of Korean legend Cha Bum-keun will be joining Ki in Glasgow at the home of Celtic.

The fun is only just beginning and will only intensify as mid-August and the start of the European season approaches.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

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