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scouting

Lee Kang-in: What If He Moves On? (Part 3)

In parts 1 and 2, guest contributor Azri Firman explored where Lee Kang-in could move if things at Valencia don't get any better. However, given the current traveling situation as a result of the pandemic along with the La Liga being a league that highlights creativity, another option for Lee Kang-in is to find another Spanish club to ply his trade. 
(image via Olympic Channel)

Dark Horses

Villareal was recently taken over by Unai Emery, and while Emery’s stint at Arsenal was a disaster, he always performs better back in Spain. His three consecutive Europa League titles with Sevilla from 2014-2016 is a testament to this. Emery prefers a 4-2-3-1 system, and is also not afraid to tinker. Given the manager's history working with players like Ever Banega, Ivan Rakitic (Sevilla), and David Silva (Valencia) who played critical roles in his success, Emery would love a player of Kang-in’s ability to link that midfield and attack. There’s just one problem. Dani Parejo, the man judged to have led the shunning of Kang-in and Ferran Torres is there now. Even if Villareal showed hypothetical interest, this could put off the South Korean to move there.

Granada finished in a rather impressive seventh place, just getting a Europa League place ahead of Getafe by two points. But a close look at the stats shows just how impressive the feat was. According to WhoScored, Granada ranks 16th in shots per game with 10.4, 16th in passing accuracy at 71.3%, 17th in key passes per game at 7.3, and 18th in possession at only 45.2%. Additionally, their attacking midfield options are not exactly the best passers in the league, especially for first-choice Carlos Fernandez, who's passing success rate is only 59.7%. However, he scored 10 goals and averages 1.4 shots per game, proving Fernandez is more of a goalscorer than a passer. At just 24 years old, Fernandez could well be the long-term solution up front for Granada, and that would give space for another attacking midfielder to go behind and support him. Fitting conditions for Kang-in to make his mark.

Real Sociedad is another team where Lee Kang-in could shine. Looking at their passing stats, Sociedad is sixth highest at 81.1%, and ninth in key passes, however their long key passes is 1.2, placing them 16th. Sociedad is another team that likes to play down the middle with possession, both under Kang-in’s wheelhouse where his ability to keep possession even under pressure will be very useful. Sociedad is also capable in aerial duels, winning 53.5% of their duels ranking them 5th overall and that would make Kang-in’s set-piece & long ball abilities more suited for the team. With Mikel Oyarzabal & Portu supporting down the wings and Willian Jose up front with all three being capable goalscorers, the passing and vision supplied by Kang-in would make them more potent. However, Sociedad did secure talismanic midfielder David Silva following a hijack from Italian side Lazio, so that could be an obstacle. But Kang-in would be a great long-term solution for ‘La Real’ in that No. 10 role.

And then we go to Seville. Creative maestro Ever Banega has left after a total of six memorable years with the club. To remedy that, Sevilla secured the return of Ivan Rakitic following his memorable spell at Barcelona that came at a turbulent end. Rakitic could well be a short term solution to fill in Banega’s creative shoes, but Sevilla would probably need a much longer-term option. However, Sevilla plays a 4-3-3 system under Julen Lopetegui with attacking full-backs as the main feature.

I’m cheating a little bit here because this should be about Kang-in being deployed as an attacking midfielder. But hear me out. Firstly, Banega would be deployed on the left side and with that spot vacated by the Argentine, Kang-in can slot in here with his stronger left foot. Sevilla’s midfielders aren't exactly known for taking on defenders as they prioritize distribution to the wings and rely on the pace of full-backs Sergio Reguilon & Jesus Navas to break them down through the flanks delivering crosses into the box. As I’ve mentioned before, Kang-in would be a great option as he offers more dimension in the middle as not just a passer, but also with his ability to dribble and carry the ball forward if the wings are stunted. Oh, and Sevilla last season is joint first place when it comes to set-piece goals and that makes Kang-in all the more useful for them with his set-piece deliveries.

FNR

The Classics

Now we go to the two best teams there are in history. I briefly explained whether Real Madrid and Barcelona would be a fit for the South Korean in the first part so now we expand on their situations. First we go to Real Madrid. Zinedane Zidane would change up his midfield depending on who they face. Zidane would play a 4-4-2 diamond, an attacking 4-2-3-1 and even playing central midfielders on wide positions where Fede Valverde & Isco would be deployed. However, there will be defensive responsibilities as well in that central midfield area with Toni Kroos & Luka Modric fulfilling the defence and attack roles. Lee Kang-in could be another useful option for Zidane’s penchant of tinkering the midfield, especially in the diamond and the 4-2-3-1. And if the situation calls for it, Kang-in may see himself playing wide. The possibilities are endless with Zidane in charge but ultimately, a 4-3-3 is his main formation. I can actually see Kang-in thrive here, especially being surrounded by amazing talent. Though it depends on how Zidane utilizes the young man.

So how about Barca? Oh, Barca. The opportunity to rebuild is there. Kang-in’s skills and talent would be fantastic for them. Given Barcelona’s history of playing brilliant attacking football, I can see Kang-in enjoying playing in the blue and red colors as well as combining with Lionel Messi. Also with Barcelona having almost no depth in the wings, they have to resort to attacking down the middle and that’s where Kang-in can help pull the strings. After all, they were first place in La Liga last season when it came to attacking down the middle. But given how shambolic the club has been run in recent years under president Josep Maria Bartomeu, why would Kang-in go to another dumpster fire given Valencia’s own problems? And don’t get me started on the huge mess around Messi trying to leave as the Argentine legend has now made a U-turn to stay but it could get even messier (No pun intended) after what Messi said about Bartomeu in an interview. When it comes to on-the-pitch matters, Kang-in sounds like a great option. But given what is going on behind the scenes, I think it’s best he stays clear of the club for now.

Overall

I can see loads of clubs that Kang-in can help improve. But we also have to keep in mind the massive yet questionable 80 million euro release clause Lee Kang-in has that is a major stumbling block for clubs if they want to get him, especially with the pandemic going on.

Hopefully that release clause is lowered in case he does extend his contract. That way, he can exit the club if things go more south considering the crisis that is going on. However, the extension can mean this is the big break he needs because given his ability, he has what it takes to play in a big team one day. But if he finds himself on the bench regularly again and things off-the-pitch for Valencia gets worse, he needs to move on quickly.

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