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Decisions for Busan Players

The market is yet to officially open, but K League clubs are already making their moves in preparation for next season. Busan too will need to make some hard choices as they prepare for life in the K League Challenge. Try to spend big to keep the better players and strengthen in an attempt to make a quick escape, or re-build and re-stock on a budget and accept life in the 2nd-tier for a little while. Busan's history under the IPark (Hyundai Development Company) management would suggest the latter, but there has been little news out about clubs sniffing around, so perhaps there is a chance of the former. Perhaps though, the deciding factor will be the players themselves...

Decisions, decisions. Stay or go?

Originally I was going to write a scathing letter to the club president about how poorly the club has been managed, but this article in Ilgan Sports caught my eye (mainly for how odd I found the comparison). The article compares Lee Jeong-hyeob's situation now, to that faced by Juventus players following the announcement the club would be relegated to Serie B after the calciopoli scandal.

One of my favorite players of all time. The one, the only Alessandro Del Piero.
That Juventus team was, as they say, stacked with talent. Players like: Alessandro Del Piero, David Trezeguet, Gigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Pavel Nedved, Lilian Thuram, Gianluca Zambrotta, Mauro Camoranesi, and on and on. Following the relegation announcement the club and players had to make a choice for the first time in their history - stay with the club in Serie B or move on to other teams. Some like, Del Piero, Buffon, Trezeguet, Nedved, and Camoranesi, stayed on and cemented their hero/legend status with supporters. Others moved on and became figures of scorn for the fans, Cannavaro and Ibrahimovic in particular.

Now, because I am a fan of Serie A, I will say that this comparison is utterly ridiculous. Within their relative spheres (Korea and Italy), Busan comes nowhere near the level of Juventus. And while I like Lee Jeong-hyeob and think he's a solid player, to compare him to Ale Del Piero or Zlatan is a bit of a laugh. However, for the sake of the post, I'll play along.

Lee Jeong-hyeob does have to make a choice, as do a few other Busan players like Joo Se-jong and Lee Bum-young. Do they stick around for at least one season in the Challenge or do they ask to move on to other clubs and stay in the Classic?

(*small side note, of the three above I think Joo Se-jong is the most likely to push for a move as he's the only one who still needs to complete his military service. With only a couple years until he's due, he'll likely feel the need to max his top-flight playing time)

The Del Piero Path

This path sees the players stay at Busan and play in the K League Challenge. On a personal level, the players will likely see their stock with fans shoot up. Most, myself included, are expecting them to leave, and really can't fault them for wanting to do so. For them to (potentially) turn down offers from other K League clubs and abroad would give them big credit. On a playing level it probably does them few favors except maybe to have a nice stat line if they can beat up on the "weaker" opposition. Lee Jeong-hyeob has already shown he can score in the Challenge, so an injury free season and he could make a run at top scorer.

4 years left on his deal with Busan. Does he force his way out. Does the club cash in?
Reason it happens: According to league officials, Lee Jeong-hyeob signed a five-year deal with Busan and still has four years left on his contract. Club officials could, in theory, stick to their guns and force him to stay. Lee Bum-young's stock isn't as high as it was a couple years ago, and teams might take a look at the younger Lee Chang-geun. Joo Se-jong had a solid year, but was largely overlooked at CM by other talents, so the interest (read: money) may not be high enough for Busan to part ways with him. Coach Choi Young-joon has said that he, of course, wants them in his team.

The Zlatan Path

If the players truly followed the 'Zlatan Path' they would force their way out of the club even if the team wanted them to stay. I doubt the club would really stand in their way, but I suppose it's possible. Anyway, should the players leave it would likely be a better career move in all honesty. That being said, it's sometimes difficult to predict how players adjust to new teams and surroundings. It's certainly not a guarantee that they are successful at their new club nor that they are automatic starters. Depending on the team/situation will they risk starts and minutes in favor of a 'bigger' team and more money?

Will need to go to the army soon. Make a move to stay in top-flight or help the club get promoted?
Reason it happens: While there haven't been too many rumors, surely these three will attract significant interest both in Korea and abroad (cough*China*cough). Reports are already out that there are some J League clubs interested in Lee Jeong-hyeob and a K League official has said that many clubs would love to have the former KNT forward. With Jung Sung-ryong, Kim Seung-gyu, Yoo Hyun, Shin Hwa-yong, and Kim Byung-ji all possibly leaving their current teams, someone will be looking for an experienced pair of hands in goal, and Lee Bum-young fits that criteria nicely. Joo Se-jong may have been overlooked by the media for flashier/sexier central mids, but surely other teams will be interested in picking up a solid midfielder who has a good set piece delivery and decent defending skills.

What Should They/The Club Do?

Obviously a lot will depend on the kind of budget the owners hand the club for next season. Earlier indications hint that it will not be that big. From a club perspective, the logical choice would be to cash in on Lee Bum-young and try to hold onto Lee Jeong-hyeob and Joo Se-jong. Perhaps tell the two to just stay for one year and if the team fails to make it up to the Classic they'll be sold next year. Lee Jeong-hyeob can score in the Challenge and it's vital to have one dominant goalscorer if you want to get promoted. Busan would do well to hang onto Joo Se-jong as well to ensure that Lee has someone to give him service next year.

Longtime servant and vice-captain. Is it time to make way for Lee Chang-geun?
From a player perspective they should all leave. The fans won't hate them for it, and if we're honest how much is the love of the few diehard fans Busan has worth? Like I mentioned earlier, Joo Se-jong is off to the army in a couple years, need to make the most of the time you've got. Lee Jeong-hyeob just spent a year or so in the Challenge with the army. Lee Bum-young has been a "faithful servant" to the club, but there is a capable backup ready to step up to soften the blow. All three would likely play and start for their new club, as well as likely make more money.

What do you think? Should the club keep or cash in on their three prize assets? Should they players stay and fight for promotion or get out and advance their careers? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Jae-hyeok Lee on Twitter @ArmchairRegista

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  1. Really hoping Lee Bum-young winds up in Jeonnam yellow next season. Kim Min-sik's looked OK, but doesn't inspire a ton of confidence in an already weak back line. LBY at the back with a new CB (or two) could finally propel the Dragons into the top 6.

  2. Don't think Jung-hyup will want to spend another season in the Challenge and it won't be easy for Busan to come straight back up so I think most players who have the chance to move will do so. With so many keepers potentially moving someone will offer Beom-young a gig I'm sure.


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