South Korean footballer Lee Kang-in has scored a winning goal for Valencia FC, ending his goal drought. The 19-year-old entered as a substitute in a 35th round match against Real Valladolid on Tuesday. When the score was 1:1, Lee cut inside from the right wing and scored a long-range left-foot shot in the 89th minute. It was his second goal of the season and the first goal in 286 days after he made his La Liga debut goal against Getafe on Sept. 26 of last year.
Thanks to Lee’s goal, Valencia gained a 2:1 victory on the day, climbing a notch to eighth place in the standings on 50 points (13 wins, 11 draws, and 11 losses). Spanish newspaper Marca praised Lee’s performance that day, saying Lee Kang-in has become the hero of Valencia. It added that Lee, who missed most of the games this season, has regained his genius.
Lee rose to stardom after winning the Golden Ball Award at the U-20 World Cup held in Poland last year. But he has been having a tough season after failing to make the starting lineup at his team. Lee started for only two games out of the season’s 14 games. Against this backdrop, Valencia sacked the head coach Albert Celades on June 30 after a poor run of results and replaced the position with Voro Gonzalez.
Although Lee is under contract with Valencia until 2022, he had to consider transferring to other teams, where he can get more chances to play. The Superdeporte, a local newspaper of Valencia, recently reported that Lee has rejected to renew his contract with Valencia and requested a transfer. According to Spanish media Football Espana, Olympique de Marseille and OGC Nice are interested in Lee.
Under this difficult situation, the South Korean midfielder has managed to score a winning goal in his first match in a long time under the leadership of the new coach Gonzalez. Much attention is on how this goal will affect the future of Lee, who is standing at a crossroads between staying and leaving the team.
Gonzalez, who grabbed his first win after two matches, said Lee is capable of breaking the defensive line with his aggressive moves and giving proper passes to forwards, adding he does not consider the age or career of players when setting a lineup and will make the best choice for the team. Valencia will have its 35th round match against Leganes on July 13.
Yun-Cheol Jeong firstname.lastname@example.org