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Korean Soccer Players Who Went Abroad Critiqued

Posted July. 10, 2009 07:35,   


The summer transfer season in European soccer has heated up. Clubs are debating which players to buy or sell, and this could involve players who hail from Korea.

Manchester United of England has offered a contract extension to midfielder Park Ji-sung, and Paris Saint-Germain of France is considering signing striker Lee Keun-ho.

Since the 2002 World Cup co-hosted by Korea and Japan, quite a few Koreans have played abroad. The number of Korean players who have moved to overseas clubs is around 40.

The Dong-A Ilbo interviewed 10 FIFA agents and officials to get a better understanding of the successes, failures and needed qualities of Korean players abroad.

○ Most successful: Park Ji-sung and Cha Bum-kun

Most of the respondents called Park one of Korea’s two most successful players overseas. After the 2002 World Cup, Park moved to the Dutch club PSV Eindhoven, following former Korea national coach Guus Hiddink.

After an impressive two years in the Netherlands, Park was purchased by United in 2005. He has emerged as a key player for the Red Devils, and became the first Asian to play in a Champions League final this year.

The second successful player is Cha Bum-kun, who coaches the K-League team Suwon Samsung Redwings. He went to Germany’s Bundesliga in 1978 and over the next 10 years, he scored 98 goals in 308 games for SV Darmstadt 98, Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayer Leverkusen.

When Cha played in Germany, the Bundesliga was the strongest league in Europe.

○ Disappointments: Lee Chun-soo and Lee Dong-gook

Lee Chun-soo is considered Korea’s most disappointing transfer abroad. In 2003, he became the first Korean to play in the Spanish Primera Liga, but left soon after showing a poor performance.

He transferred to Feyenoord of the Netherlands but failed to adapt there over a year. One respondent said, “Lee’s second transfer was very disappointing but it was good that he could transfer to a new club on decent terms.”

Lee returned to Korea in July last year and joined Suwon, but was released in December last year after he reportedly snubbed team practice without notice.

Jeonbuk Hyundai’s Lee Dong-gook, the K-League’s leading scorer, is also considered a disappointment. He transferred to Werder Bremen of Germany in 2001 and Middlesbrough of England in 2007 but eventually returned to Korea in failure.

The transfers of Kim Nam-il from Vissel Kobe of Japan to SC Excelsior of the Netherlands and Kim Dong-hyun from Gyeongnam FC of Korea to SC Braga of Portugal were also named as disappointments.

○ Skills, physical strength and mental strength

Many Koreans players dream of joining a team overseas. When asked what such a player needs to play abroad, the respondents cited skills and physical and mental strength.

One said, “In the European leagues, soccer players need to move quickly for 90 minutes. Without physical strength, no one can survive.”

On which Korean player has the biggest potential to succeed in Europe, most respondents said midfielder Ki Sung-yueng of the K-League’s FC Seoul. They said he shows a good balance in attacking and defending, but that he needs to improve in both areas. Most of all, they cited Ki’s ability to control the ball and perform free kicks.

The FIFA scouts and officials also warned players against holding illusions about joining overseas clubs.

“Moving to an overseas club does not guarantee success,” one said. “It is just the first step. If you want to move to an overseas club, you have to fully enjoy soccer while overcoming loneliness and discrimination.”

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