|Suwon Samsung striker Adam Taggart|
By John Duerden
The 2020 K-League season is going to have quite an Australian flavor about it with more and more clubs starting to look down under as they think about shopping for the new year. These imports will have to give some thanks to Adam Taggart _ if he is still around.
Taggart signed for Suwon Bluewings last February and had what can only be described as a perfect debut season for the powerhouse. So good was the striker that he ended the year with the golden boot after scoring 20 goals, more than anyone else. Finding the net with such regularity in the K-League, a competition with tight defenses and tough defenders, is especially difficult for new strikers.
It was even more impressive as Suwon, four time champion, had a poor season by their own standards, finishing in the bottom half of the standings. The biggest challenge for the Bluewings is keeping hold of their star striker. There have been reports of interest from Japanese clubs but more dangerous is the fact that Chinese teams are hovering.
The last three K-League golden boot winners secured a big money move to China and it would not be a huge surprise if the 26 year-old is tempted across the Yellow Sea. Second division Changchun Yatai was champion of China in 2007 and want the glory days back. Chinese teams like to buy from Korea as foreign players who do well in the K-League are likely to do well in China too.
Suwon, whose backer Samsung has looked to cut costs in recent years, knows it has a battle to keep the Socceroo as coach Lee Lim-saeng admitted last week.
"I want Adam to stay at our club because we're very happy with him," Lee said.
"There haven't been any bids so far but if a huge offer was made to the player and the club, frankly it would be hard to keep him. If the pay offer is better than us, then it's hard for the player to be happy to stay with us. We have to be realistic in this type of situation."
The player has said he is happy to stay for a second season and help Suwon in the Asian Champions League but history has shown that when rich Chinese clubs come calling, Korean teams struggle to keep hold of their stars. There may also be bids coming from other K-League teams though Suwon will be very reluctant to sell to a domestic rival.
There will be more Australians whatever happens to Taggart however. Daejeon Citizen has signed Connor Chapman from Western United, a Melbourne-based club and Pohang Steelers is about to complete a deal for Brandon O'Neill from Sydney FC. There are likely to be more Aussies coming in the next few weeks. Just as China sees Korea as a good place to go shopping and to get value for money, Korean teams see Australia in a similar way.
It is a relationship that can benefit both countries. Korea offers a great introduction to Asia for Australian players, it is a high quality competition and if you succeed in Korea then many doors can open.