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scouting

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors Forward Cho Gue-sung Completes Move to FC Midtjylland



Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Korean national team striker Cho Gue-sung has completed a move to Danish Superliga side FC Midtjylland on a five-year deal for a fee reportedly of around £2.6 million. The 25-year-old finally makes his long-awaited move to Europe after a lengthy transfer saga starting in winter.


The 2022 K League 1 golden boot winner has been highly sought after since the back end of last year, with clubs such as Scottish champions Celtic and Bundesliga outfit Mainz chasing his signature. It looked almost inevitable that Cho Gue-sung would leave in the winter after his impressive World Cup performance, but he rejected all offers and decided to stay with Jeonbuk until the summer.

From a Jeonbuk perspective, it is unfortunate Cho couldn't be sold for a higher fee. The striker's stock has understandably dropped after the World Cup due to him not having the best of seasons.

English Championship side Watford were heavily linked a couple of weeks ago, with other EFL clubs reportedly interested. It was reported Watford had agreed personal terms with Cho. However, in a post-match interview, after Jeonbuk beat FC Seoul in Cho Gue-sung's final match for the club, he denied that there were offers from England. He did mention one team was interested, but no offers came in.

In the same interview, the striker mentioned he did not regret rejecting Celtic and Mainz. The priority was to sign with a European club where he felt wanted and would be granted plenty of opportunities. He also defended technical director Park Ji-sung who was heavily criticised for helping convince Cho to stay with Jeonbuk.


Career

Cho Gue-sung broke through into the first team at FC Anyang in 2019. In his first season as a professional, he scored 14 and assisted four. In January 2020, he helped Korea at U23 level win the U23 Asian Cup. He earnt a move to K League 1 champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in 2020, giving Jeonbuk a solid attacking option for the U22 quota. 

The young forward did find it challenging to make the step up to K League 1 but did improve towards the end of the season. He scored a brace against Daegu to help secure Jeonbuk the league title on the final day. He ended the season with eight goals and four assists in 34 appearances.

Since he would no longer be eligible for the U22 quota in 2021, significantly reducing the opportunities he'd receive in the first team, Cho decided to move to Gimcheon Sangmu to undergo his mandatory military service. With Gimcheon, he could drop back down to K League 2 and continue his development while also getting his military service out of the way early in his career. Unsurprisingly, the military side won the K League 2 title. Cho netted eight goals in 27 appearances. He then made his debut for the senior Korean national team in September at the age of 23. 

Cho Gue-sung started last season on fire with Gimcheon, scoring eight goals in the opening ten matches back in K League 1. He was discharged from the military in September with a goal tally of 13 with a side that would eventually be relegated. Cho was a massive boost for Kim Sang-sik's Jeonbuk side. He was of vital importance in the FA cup. He scored the winner against Ulsan in extra time in the semi-finals, then scored in both legs of the final against FC Seoul, helping his team end the season with a trophy after missing out on the league. His performances earnt him the FA cup MVP award. He tied with Joo Min-kyu for the K League 1 golden boot, scoring 17 goals. 





The World Cup last December put Cho Gue-sung on the map when he scored two headers in a 3-2 loss vs Ghana in the second group stage game, in the process, becoming the first Korean player to score two goals in a single World Cup match.

In 2023, Cho had some issues with injury, but even when fit, he struggled to perform in a Jeonbuk side who were far off the mark this year. The club's instability likely played a part in the 25-year-old's decline this season. The pressure and expectations placed on him after the World Cup may have also contributed.

Although he had a rough start to the season, Cho Gue-sung showed substantial improvement in the last couple of months while playing under caretaker manager Kim Do-heon and new manager Dan Petrescu. He ended a three-month goal drought at the beginning of June, scoring in a 2-0 victory over rivals Ulsan Hyundai. He was finally returning to the level of performance we became accustomed to seeing from him last season. He was even nominated for the K League 1 Player of the Month award for June.

Career Stats:

Apps: 149
Goals: 57
Assists: 17
Honours: K League 2 Champion (2021), K League Champion (2020), KFA Cup Champion x2 (2020, 2022), U23 Asian Cup (2020)
Individual Honours: K League 2 Best XI (2019), KFA Cup MVP (2022), K League 1 Top Scorer (2022), K League 1 Best XI (2022)

National Team Stats (Senior Level):

Apps: 24
Goals: 6
Assists: 2

A Promising Platform


On the face of it, a move to a club that finished in the bottom half of the Danish Superliga last season may seem slightly underwhelming since Cho nearly ended up in the top flight of Germany. However, when looked into a little deeper, the move to Denmark could turn out very well for Korea's number nine. Despite finishing in the bottom half last season, FC Midtjylland won the UECL playoffs meaning they are now in the conference league qualifiers. European football could be huge for Cho's growth and development. The Danish Superliga provides the Korean international with a league perfect to use as a stepping stone towards making it to one of the top five leagues.

Midtjylland also shares the same owner as Premier League team Brentford who recently signed Kim Ji-soo from Seongnam FC. If Cho is a success in Denmark, perhaps it could pave the way for him to make it into the Premier League with Brentford.

Although they had a poor season in the league last year, Midtjylland regularly challenges for the Superliga title. The club are usually in Europe and are in a league that has a record of producing and developing top talent.

Cho's priority was always to sign with a European club that will offer him plenty of minutes. He looks set to get that in Denmark. The move is arguably much better for Cho than the Bundesliga for example, as in Denmark, Cho can settle in and develop at a club in a lesser league but still with lots of talent around him rather than risking a move straight to a club in the top five leagues and potentially struggling initially. 


What Cho Gue-sung can bring to FC Midtjylland


For more on Cho Gue-sung and his qualities [READ: Why Rising Star Cho Gue-sung is Gaining European Interest]

Final Thoughts

It is a positive step in the right direction for the 25-year-old who will be looking to cement his place as starting striker for the Korean national team in the coming years, which won't be an easy task with the rise of Celtic's Oh Hyeon-gyu who will look to do the same.

If all goes well in Denmark, we could see Cho Gue-sung in one of the top five leagues soon as he begins to enter his prime years.


FNR


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