Tuesday, January 9, 2007

New Year Same Old Stories

Ahn Returns

Ahn enters the action

It’s that time of the year again when it feels like half of the K-League is on the move. The close season in Korea is a frantic affair and at times hard to keep up with.

The fate of Ahn Jung-hwan has been the big story of the new year so far. Precisely a year ago, the “Lord of the Ring” was in the process of turning down a trial with Blackburn Rovers. Instead he headed to MSV Duisberg who were then in the Bundesliga.

After relegation, Ahn was released from his contract but since August has been without a club. On the wrong side of 30, his options are not likely to increase and he finally decided to return to the K-League on January 9 when he signed for Suwon Samsung Bluewings.

The three-time champions who already boast international stars such as Kim Nam-il, Cho Won-hee, Baek Ji-hoon and Song Chong-guk, took some time to close the deal with the ex-Perugia, Yokohama, Shimizu and Metz striker.

``We met with Ahn and his agent for the negotiation several times. There was huge difference at first over contract terms, but our talks has recently moved forward further,’’ Suwon club boss Ahn Ki-heon told Yonhap news agency.

``Ahn’s side has yielded a lot in the contract term including the annual salary. We are positive we could bring him unless there is significant disagreement during the rest of the talks.’’

A week later, Ahn signed and was given the number ten shirt. Now the challenge is to win back the red shirt of the national team.

Seoul Life

FC Seoul have released Portuguese midfielder Ricardo Nascimento -the 34 year-old playmaker spent two years in the capital, becoming a firm favourite with the fans. He returns to his homeland’s top flight to join struggling Desportivo das Aves.

Senol Gunes at FC Seoul
Passing in the opposite direction was the club’s new manager. Senol Gunes arrived on January 6. The capital was sitting under a few inches of snow by the time the ex-Turkey coach returned to Korea for the first time since participating in the 3rd/4th play-off game at the 2002 World Cup.

“Thanks to those who came to meet me despite the bad weather,” he said. “My first impression of the fans is a good one.”

“Of course the most important thing is victory but I will try to give fans football that they can love.”

“I still have a good feeling from the 2002 World Cup. Turkey and Korea got good results. The two nations are brothers and that is one reason why I decided to come here.”

At a press conference in the bowels of Seoul World Cup Stadium 48 hours later, the 54 year-old made all the right noises and promised entertainment and results for fans.

Seoul World Cup Stadium under snow

The two Lees

A constant story since the summer has been that of Lee Young-pyo. The versatile Spurs star lost his place at the start of the new season and was a whisker away from joining AS Roma at the end of August. At the last minute however, the 29 year-old changed his mind and decided to stay in North London.

The reason for the change of heart has been kept close to the chest of “Chorongi” who had to deny in a press conference that his deep religious beliefs were behind the decision.

Lee on national duty with Park Ji-sung

Stories in Italy also talked of financial reasons and pressure from Sky Sports on the player not to reduce Korean interest in the Premier League by leaving it. It sounds about as likely as reports of Chelsea interest in the defender.

Fortunately for the player, he has since won back his place in the team but the rumours still abound that he could soon swap England’s capital for its Italian counterpart. Supposedly in the first week of the New Year, Roma asked for a loan and then a full transfer.

Lee will stay put but the same can’t be said of 2002 and 2006 World Cup team-mate Lee Chun-soo. The 2005 K-League MVP said in December that he was ready to leave Ulsan Hyundai Horang-I and the K-League.

Yokohama Marinos and Urawa Reds in Japan fancy the winger who hit six goals in two and a half games in last August’s East Asian Champions Cup held on the archipelago.
As documented on here before, Lee is eyeing Europe – especially England. There has been little mention of possible moves for the winger since the transfer window opened.

It remains to be seen if that is good news or bad.

K-League News

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Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile

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