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Global Transfer Talk

With the FIFA Transfer Window officially open here in Korea players from all over the world will soon be on their way to K-League, and many that are here will find themselves elsewhere. To get an idea of some potential names that may be on the move, we spoke with other Asian-based writers for some cross-league knowledge, potential moves, and some silly season rumors. We spoke with our AFC Champions League counterparts Stuart of JLeague Regista and Lew Dub of Explore Football, as well as fellow Asian football blogger Debraj Banerjee of Indian Football. Each writer was asked three questions about their league and K-League for this transfer window. Here's what they had to say:

Who in your league may be on their way out that you feel would be a good fit in K-League?

Stuart of JLeague Regista
It's sale season in the J.League. Golden boy Takashi Usami has already agreed to leave Gamba Osaka for Augsburg in the Bundesliga (where he will join Koreans Ji Dong-won & Hong Jeong-ho). Another rising star, Takuma Asano, is rumoured to heading the same way with a move to Europe likely, while rumours persist about the Kashima Antlers winger Caio. Most players are available for transfer in Japan, if the price is right. We see a lot of forwards go abroad to hone/develop their skills, but not that many defenders - and certainly not many central defenders. I know it might not be a sexy position to target, but from a Japanese standpoint, I'd like Japanese defenders to go and get more experience overseas.

I don't think he's on his way out, but someone like FC Tokyo's center back Masato Morishige would be an interesting addition to K-League. FC Tokyo are currently treading water after losing Yoshinori Muto & Kosuke Ota last year, they haven't really built on last year's 4th placed finish, and the appointment Hiroshi Jofoku has just added to the reputation of a club that can't be bothered with success. Morishige is comfortable on the ball, and decent enough in the air. One of the things we lament in Japan is the fact that not enough players are ready to get involved in the "dark arts" of football - commonly known as gamesmanship. Morishige isn't from that group. Time wasting, nasty challenges, baiting, off the ball stuff - Morishige is no stranger to them. He has been erratic this year in domestic football, but really excelled in the ACL (my mind goes to his one man crusade in Nanjing against Jiangsu Suning) and I think he would do well for a team like Jeonbuk or Seongnam. Maybe he'd like the chance to play at a club that is gunning for honours, who knows?

Lew Dub of Explore Football (Australia based)
Dutch import Romeo Castelen (pictured below) finished the season with seven goals and five assists. Not bad for a winger. The 33 year old also ranked highly with his percentage of successful crosses. Probably most striking about Castelen was his consistency and work ethic though. Despite his vintage he was a constant menace for his opponents and this was the quality that endeared him to fans. Many are still scratching their heads as to why manager Tony Popovic let the 33 year old go. Castelen has played most of his football in his native Holland with a short spell in Germany. His two year stint in Australia was his first experience of club football outside of Europe, that is an indicator that Asia could be next on his to-do list and most K-League teams would definitely find Castelen a bargain buy.

Sydney FC striker Shane Smeltz is now 34 years old but the kiwi is currently just one goal away from becoming the A-League All Time Topscorer. Smeltz has chalked up a stunning 4 hat-tricks in his A-League career where he has played with Wellington Phoenix, the now defunct Gold Coast United, Perth Glory and Sydney FC. Disappointingly Smeltz has been a bit part player with his current club Sydney FC. Perennially a second choice for manager Graham Arnold, Smeltz may be looking for one last adventure, though family commitments may be more important to him these days.

Another Sydney FC player, defender Matt Jurman (pictured above) is up for a contract renewal at the end of the 2016/17 season. Jurman was voted player of the year, members player of the year and most importantly players player of the year for his contribution last season. The 26 year old had his most consistent season in 2015/16 and may even have himself in the national team picture. I was most impressed with Jurman's assured performances in the ACL, and that's why I see him as a perfect fit for any K-League club. Australia's most successful exports to the K-League were both defenders - Sasa Ogenonovski (Seongnam FC) and Alex Wilkinson (Jeonbuk) - and Jurman could be the next Aussie to make his mark in the K. Jurman is combative, in your face and has a real winners attitude. In the past Jurman's temperament was his worst enemy but the 2015/16 season saw a more composed player showing strong leadership qualities.

Anyone not on their way out you think a K-League side could bring in with a splash signing?

Debraj Banerjee of Indian Football
Currently it's the off-season and most contracts for big players in the I-League are only a season long (hence merging two answers into one). Two foreigners who play in the I-League, Sony Norde (Mohun Bagan) and John Johnson (Bengaluru FC) could be a good fit in K-League. Sony Norde (pictured left) is an attacking midfielder who recently participated for Haiti in the Copa America. He can play in an attacking role as a forward and also as a winger. He has good skills with the ball and good shooting ability. He was a key man in Mohun Bagan's triumph of the I-League last season(2014-15). John Johnson, on the other hand is a robust centre-back, great in the air and also decent with the ball at his feet. His long stature coupled with good ability to read the game makes him one of the best defenders in the league. He played a key role in Bengaluru FC's two league titles in three years.

Among Indian players, Indian Internationals Pronoy Halder and Eugeneson Lyngdoh. While Pronoy Halder is a rock-solid defensive midfielder who can control the tempo of the game with his great positional sense and providing a great cover for the defenders, Eugeneson Lyngdoh plays a more central role and always wants to have the ball, creating spaces and looking for key passes.

Lew Dub of Explore Football
An attacking player possibly on the market is Bruno Fornaroli. The Uruguayan had an astonishing debut A-League season for Melbourne City (owned by the City Football Group) in 2015/16. At age 28, Fornaroli broke the A-League record for most goals in a season with 25 from 29 starts. Fornaroli is contracted to Melbourne City until the end of the 2016/17 season, but there has been rumour that Bruno may be heading to New York City (another City Football Group club). It's highly unlikely that Bruno Fornaroli would be thinking about the K-League after his deeds last season, but if things go awry in 2016/17 Melbourne City could start shopping the player around with an eye for a transfer fee.

Defenders are what Australia does best in Asia and we have another that would be a good fit for the K-League. Nigel Boogaard (pictured right) is currently with the eternally floundering Newcastle Jets and is contracted until the end of the 2017/18 season. Boogaard captains the Jets from central defence and being a Newcastle resident I'd hate to see him go, for the much needed leadership qualities the team needs, but at 29 the Newcastle product (junior club: Weston Bears) has only ever played club football in Australia. He may well be thinking it's about time to see some of the world or it's about time he cashed in. Speculation on my part, but Boogaard is one of those players that is of a similar ilk to Sasa Ognenovski. He's vocal, he's not shy when it comes to the physical side of the game and he's 188cm. Pretty handy for a K-League club on the hunt for a central defender.

Stuart of JLeague Regista
It is difficult to project a splash signing because, for whatever reason, Japanese players don't really seem to think about moving to K-League. But if I'm looking at complete freedom to choose a "splash" I'll go with Manabu Saito from Yokohama F.Marinos. Saito is a dribbler. Full stop. That's what he does, but he is straight-jacketed in Yokohama's ultra-conservative set-up with their (over) reliance on Shunsuke Nakamura to be their playmaking talisman essentially categorizing him as a luxury.But he shouldn't be. He should be featured as a game-breaker. A team that is willing to give Saito the chance to spread his legs, run at defenders and give him the freedom to do that will be well rewarded. I don't think he is interested in moving, but from a purely personal point of view, I'd love to see him at another team (sorry to my F.Marinos supporting friends!!)

Who in K-League would you like to see playing for one of your sides? Which team do you think they'd fit best with?

Lew Dub of Explore Football
Leonardo (Jeonbuk). The 29 year old Brazilian would be a massive hit in the A-League. We are a little starved of flair and finesse so whenever someone comes along that shows assuredness on the ball and a little trickery fans here stand up. This year Leonardo has made a big impact on the Asian Champions League, particularly against Melbourne Victory where he bagged three goals in their two legged Round of 16 fixture. Leonardo scored his goals from free kicks and another from the edge of the box, where he simply passed the ball into the back of the net, but there is more to his game than that. Playing down the left flank for Jeonbuk, it's hard to miss Leonardo with his pace and flair. Any A-League team would love him. He would no doubt provide an increase in gate receipts for whoever he landed with. Perth Glory have already done a lot of buying in the off season so they're out of the equation, but it wouldn't hurt them to bring in a crowd pleaser. The Central Coast Mariners lost a quality young left sided midfielder in the off-season so they're definitely a club that could do with a Leonardo type but it's more likely a high profile club would pick him up. Sydney FC have one decent left sided attacking player in David Carney but I'm sure they could make space for Leonardo if he was interested. The Sky Blues have always had very demanding fans, and if they're not winning in style it just doesn't work in the big city. Leonardo's free kicks and flair would be very welcome in the harbour city.

Park Gi-dong (Sangju Sangmu) has scored seven goals from his 14 K-League appearances this year and from my research it looks like he's in career best form. As well as his goal scoring feats, Park has provided five assists and sits third in the K-League assists table. The forward has a habit of scoring in opportunistic circumstances not unlike the A-League's Shane Smeltz. There is minimum fuss to his game, but he's managed to score goals off his left foot, his right foot and his head, he has great game awareness and he looks like a player that would adapt to new teammates with ease. At 191cm Park, Gi Dong would be a great fit for one of the A-League's less high profile clubs. Sydney FC, Melbourne Victory, and Melbourne City fans would definitely expect imports to have a big reputation, Park, Gi Dong doesn't have that. Nevertheless, a club like the Newcastle Jets, which has been struggling for an eternity would not demand high profile signings, just quality signings. Ulsan Hyundai's Lee, Ki Je had a successful stint at the Jets and quickly established himself as a fan favourite, Koreans and the Jets go well together. Additionally, Park, Gi Dong's style would suit the club. Manager Scott Miller is not one of the current crop hell-bent on playing pretty football at the expense of winning. With their new Chinese owner Martin Le the Jets are ready to make a plunge into the transfer market. As Park, Gi Dong is at the South Korean military club Sangju Sangmu, I'm of the belief he won't be available until the end of 2016, but I still see him as good pick-up at a good price.

Deadriano (FC Seoul). When I say Deadriano of course I refer to both Adriano and Dejan Damjanovic. Now the odds of an A-League club picking up this pair is about 500/1, but I write it in the hope the guys learn of the A-League's existence and it perhaps triggers some silly thought in their mind that they'd like to leave 2nd place FC Seoul and give up their opportunity to play in the Asian Champions League Quarter Finals. Big Dejan would be a massive hit in Australia not only because of his football talent but because our own balkan community. Dejan plays with passion and no matter where you go that will endear you to the fans. I have no doubt he would love the lifestyle here in Australia as would his strike partner Adriano. While Dejan is 34 Adriano is at the peak of his physical powers at age 28. He has 10 goals in the K-League and 11 goals in the ACL. He has been stunning on the big stage. You just have to look at his hat-trick against Sanfrecce Hiroshima to witness the range to his game. A volleyed goal, a tap-in and a race to the ball topped off with a well placed finish. He has it all. Could an A-League club afford Adriano? I don't think so, but we can dream.

Stuart of JLeague Regista
My K-League knowledge is sketchy at best, but there are two people that I'd like to see in the J.League. The first is FC Seoul midfielder Yojiro Takahagi. It looks like he has had a really good time since leaving Sanfrecce Hiroshima, and I gather that he has had a reasonable spell for Seoul. If he were to come back, I think that moving to a vibrant team like Kawasaki Frontale would be a good move for both.

The second player is Jeonbuk midfielder Lee Jae-Sung. I've not seen him as much as I'd like to, but in the limited action I've seen he looks like a really good player. His attacking instincts would fit well with what Gamba Osaka want to do, but can't because of the fact that Yasuhito Endo is getting old. I don't for one minute think that this transfer will happen, but it is one that would certainly create a splash here.

Debraj Banerjee of Indian Football
K-League is far ahead in terms of quality and professionalism than the I-League (which is still in growing phase). Though I don't follow K-League much, looking at a few videos available online I was fascinated to see young midfielder Hwang In-beom. Just at the age of 19 years he has lightning quick feet. His turns are too quick and I am sure he is a nightmare for defenders.

1 comment

  1. Quite interested in seeing a number of these guys in K-League. An added perk for clubs interested is that most of them fit into the "Asian player" category on the roster and wouldn't affect the other 3 foreigner spots allotted.


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