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Hwang gets his big break

RB Leipzig announces at its webpage, July 8, it has acquired South Korean forward Hwang Hee-chan from its sister club RB Salzburg of Austria. / Courtesy of RB Leipzig
RB Leipzig announces at its webpage, July 8, it has acquired South Korean forward Hwang Hee-chan from its sister club RB Salzburg of Austria. / Courtesy of RB Leipzig

By John Duerden

It has been an interesting month so far for South Korean players in Europe. There was an important goal for Lee Kang-in, a big argument for Son Heung-min and then an even bigger move for Hwang Hee-chan.

Teenager Lee Kang-in scored the winning goal for Valencia against Real Valladolid last week, a fine strike from the edge of the area. After failing to get much playing time this season, the 19-year-old is reportedly seeking a move but as he is under contract until 2022 and there is a release clause on his contract close to $100 million, he may have to wait it out ― even with plenty of interest from clubs in France and elsewhere in Spain. A few more performances like that however and interim coach Voro Gonzalez may be ready to give the MVP of last year's U-20 World Cup more time.

In the current climate, nobody is going to trigger the clause so either Valencia drops the price and sells now or waits in the knowledge that the closer 2022 gets then the cheaper Lee becomes until he can leave for nothing as a free agent.

Son has plenty more experience in Europe but it was still unusual to see him squaring up to his goalkeeper Hugo Lloris in Tottenham Hotspur's 1-0 win over Everton. The Frenchman was unhappy with what he saw as Son switching off and allowing Everton to have a goal scoring opportunity. Spurs boss Jose Mourinho said it was "beautiful… I asked them to put their colleagues under the pressure of team spirit you have to give. There were a couple of bad words but I think it was something very important for the team to grow up." Lloris played down the clash. "What happened between me and Son is just something that is part of football sometimes but there is no problem at all." What should be a problem is the form of the Premier League team.

But the biggest news came as South Korean international Hwang Hee-chan finally earned his big move. The forward joined Red Bull Salzburg in 2015 and has been working hard. This season he caught the eye in the UEFA Champions League, shining especially against defending champion Liverpool. There was talk of English interest but last week he moved to Leipzig, the team that finished third in Germany in the season just finished. The team has paid around 20 billion won for his services, one of the biggest fees ever for an Asian player.

To have another player in the upper reaches of European soccer is great news for South Korea. If Hwang can continue to improve at this higher level then it only bodes well for the national team.

"I'm really looking forward to the challenge of playing for Leipzig and in the Bundesliga. I'm joining a young club with ambitious goals and a team hungry for success. They're a great fit for me, as is their attacking style of football," Hwang said.

"The move to Leipzig is the next important step in my career as a professional footballer. I want to help continue the success of the team, and be involved in as many goals as I can."

That is what all Korean fans want.


RB Leipzig announces at its webpage, July 8, it has acquired South Korean forward Hwang Hee-chan from its sister club RB Salzburg of Austria. / Courtesy of RB Leipzig
RB Leipzig announces at its webpage, July 8, it has acquired South Korean forward Hwang Hee-chan from its sister club RB Salzburg of Austria. / Courtesy of RB Leipzig

By John Duerden

It has been an interesting month so far for South Korean players in Europe. There was an important goal for Lee Kang-in, a big argument for Son Heung-min and then an even bigger move for Hwang Hee-chan.

Teenager Lee Kang-in scored the winning goal for Valencia against Real Valladolid last week, a fine strike from the edge of the area. After failing to get much playing time this season, the 19-year-old is reportedly seeking a move but as he is under contract until 2022 and there is a release clause on his contract close to $100 million, he may have to wait it out ― even with plenty of interest from clubs in France and elsewhere in Spain. A few more performances like that however and interim coach Voro Gonzalez may be ready to give the MVP of last year's U-20 World Cup more time.

In the current climate, nobody is going to trigger the clause so either Valencia drops the price and sells now or waits in the knowledge that the closer 2022 gets then the cheaper Lee becomes until he can leave for nothing as a free agent.

Son has plenty more experience in Europe but it was still unusual to see him squaring up to his goalkeeper Hugo Lloris in Tottenham Hotspur's 1-0 win over Everton. The Frenchman was unhappy with what he saw as Son switching off and allowing Everton to have a goal scoring opportunity. Spurs boss Jose Mourinho said it was "beautiful… I asked them to put their colleagues under the pressure of team spirit you have to give. There were a couple of bad words but I think it was something very important for the team to grow up." Lloris played down the clash. "What happened between me and Son is just something that is part of football sometimes but there is no problem at all." What should be a problem is the form of the Premier League team.

But the biggest news came as South Korean international Hwang Hee-chan finally earned his big move. The forward joined Red Bull Salzburg in 2015 and has been working hard. This season he caught the eye in the UEFA Champions League, shining especially against defending champion Liverpool. There was talk of English interest but last week he moved to Leipzig, the team that finished third in Germany in the season just finished. The team has paid around 20 billion won for his services, one of the biggest fees ever for an Asian player.

To have another player in the upper reaches of European soccer is great news for South Korea. If Hwang can continue to improve at this higher level then it only bodes well for the national team.

"I'm really looking forward to the challenge of playing for Leipzig and in the Bundesliga. I'm joining a young club with ambitious goals and a team hungry for success. They're a great fit for me, as is their attacking style of football," Hwang said.

"The move to Leipzig is the next important step in my career as a professional footballer. I want to help continue the success of the team, and be involved in as many goals as I can."

That is what all Korean fans want.



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