Korean K.League Football - Lee Young-pyo
John Duerden reports on Tottenham's new Korean star
Lee Young-pyo's transfer to Tottenham Hotspur has been finally
sealed and the wing-back is set to make his debut for the Premier
League outfit on September 10th when European Champions Liverpool
visit White Hart Lane in what promises to be a baptism of fire for
the 28 year-old.
What will be of even more interest to football fans in the Land
of the Morning Calm is the scheduled clash between the Londoners
United at Old Trafford on October 22.
More than a few households will have the television turned on for
the late autumn Manchester clash and a great deal of fingers will
be crossed that Park Ji-sung lines
up on the same pitch - not least his international and former
PSV Eindhoven teammate. "When on the pitch, players recognize
each other by their uniform colors, not by faces. But still, it
would be more fun to play against Ji-sung's team than any
other match," said the former Anyang Cheetahs' defender.
Korean press is still waiting and praying for Park's first
goal for the Premier League giants. The midfielder started off pretty
well for his new club and impressed his new employers in the opening
games of the season, winning Man of the Match in his debut game
at Everton and hitting the bar against Aston Villa in the second.
Concerns grew when the Korean was given just five minutes in the
Red Devils 2-0 victory at Newcastle United and such worries intensified
when it was reported that 'The Baby Faced Assassin'
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was returning to fitness. "Ji-sung's
starting guarantee is lost in the mountains," said the Sports
Seoul daily newspaper on hearing the Norwegian's unfortunate
Despite worries that the 24 year-old will find it difficult to
hold down a starting place, the country is thrilled to see the popular
wing-back Lee move to London. Naturally, those left behind at PSV
Eindhoven are less happy to see their second Korean star hop across
the North Sea this summer.
Certainly Guus Hiddink was. The former South Korean national team
manager fought for most of the summer to keep his versatile star
in the southern Netherlands.
"I didn't want him to go .. he's worked hard since
day one here. He arrived here as a player that was not recognized
yet. But he did well from his very first working day and he has
made much progress. So his value has obviously increased."
The fee wasn't disclosed but is believed to be in the region
of $2.2 million - a good deal for Spurs. Lee can play on the
left as he did for PSV, or right; in defence or attack. He often features
on the right for his national team, for which he's appeared
79 times, despite his relatively young age.
A fact that new boss Martin Jol appreciates.
"Lee has played at PSV for three years and was in the South Korea
side which reached the semi-finals of the World Cup,' the Dutchman
told the club's official website.
'He has played in the Champions League - reaching the semi-finals
last season - and is the best left-back in Holland.
"A number of Italian clubs would have liked to have taken
him and we are happy to have got him to our club. He is an attacking
full-back and is a big star in Korea having achieved so much success
"I am very happy he is coming to Spurs and very proud of it. Like
Edgar Davids he has made the decision to come to Spurs and it is
a big thing for the club."
It looked for a while that Jol may not get his man. With the end
of the transfer window approaching, Lee's future, which had
been under discussion all summer with bids from AS Monaco and rumours
of interest from Aston Villa, Everton and Newcastle United, looked
to be with the Dutch Champions.
The usually affable and relaxed defender/midfielder seemed to
lose his cool. "I feel very bad," he told Dutch newspaper,
de Telegraaf. "For three years I have done my utmost
for the club. Even while I've felt sick, I have played. But
now that I have such a chance they block my future. I do not want
to be angry, but I am.
"I can't think about anything but this transfer. As
a child I dreamt of playing in the Premier League. PSV must not
block this chance. During the Peace Cup I had a talk with Mr Hiddink
and in that talk he agreed on a transfer (to Monaco). But then Monaco
and PSV could not reach an agreement.
"Mr Hiddink then told me that I could not go to France but
I could join a club in England. But now a British club has come
in for me and still PSV are trying to stop the transfer even when
Tottenham want to pay more than Monaco would have done."
"PSV never keeps a player in Eindhoven if he can improve
his position somewhere else," he explained."(Arjen) Robben,
(Mateja) Kezman and Park (Ji-Sung) all went away. I am not a player
they cannot do without. I hope PSV come to their senses soon."
However, Lee is now back to his usual smiling self and Tottenham
fans will soon be smiling along with him and the whole of South
Korea will be purring if he meets his friend and compatriot on the
pitch in October.