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Column: Why FC Seoul Must Sign Ki Sung-yeung

Ki Sung-yeung's departure from Real Mallorca has presented FC Seoul with another golden opportunity to re-sign the former Korean National Team captain. Ki departed the La Liga outfit at the end of June and has since returned to South Korea which, naturally, has sparked more rumours of a potential K League return. FC Seoul columnist Paul Neat details just why the capital club must bring home their prodigal son.

FC Seoul made a bit of a mess of the talks they held with Ki during the winter, leaving the midfielder feeling somewhat disillusioned following a low offer, if reports at the time are to be believed. Seoul's only competition for his signature was Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors but the compensation clause was an issue. The Green Warriors have since re-signed Shin Hyung-min and have Choi Young-jun out on loan at Pohang who is due to return next year. Jeonbuk don't need Ki, but Seoul definitely do.

Choi Yong-soo has a lot of midfielders at his disposal, and a few who can play in that holding midfield role such as Osmar, Ju Se-jong, and Jung Hyeon-cheol. Han Chan-hee has been billed as the next Ki Sung-yeung due to his style and versatility and may well end up as a holding midfielder later down the line. But for now, Seoul need experience and stability in that area to steer them back into the top half and, potentially, to either ACL qualification or FA Cup glory. And they do, they have Osmar. But Seoul could do with two Osmars, one to play in the back line and one to play as the holding midfielder.

That wouldn't be necessary, though, if Seoul's front office does what it can to bring Ki Sung-yeung back to the club. When Seoul first held talks with Ki they had already signed Adriano, Han Seung-gyu on loan, and Han Chan-hee and the wage bill was bloated by the large salary of Serbian striker Aleksandar Pešić who was said to be on over $1 million a year. Pešić has since left the club after his 18-month loan deal expired, leaving Seoul with a sizable chunk of budget left. Bringing Ki back makes perfect sense on a number of levels:

Football

As Choi Yong-soo said recently, what more can you say about Ki Sung-yeung as a player? This is someone who has played over 200 times in the Premier League, has won trophies with Celtic in the Scottish Premier League as well as with Swansea City in the English Premier League and has over 100 caps for his country. But in terms of where Ki would play, he could be deployed as the defensive midfielder in the 3-5-2 or as a centre back in a three. His direct competition would be Osmar but whereas Osmar likes to carry the ball forward, Ki tends to pull the strings from deep using his keen eye for a pass.

Choi likes to have ball-playing centre backs, hence why he has played Osmar and Jung Hyeon-cheol in his back three on occasion. Ki has played there before for the national team and at K League level he would be a cut above. Osmar and Ki at either centre back or as a DM would work just fine and may depend on who Seoul come up against. Should Seoul face a side which keeps things tight and limits the space then Ki might be best to unlock a stubborn midfield with a precise pass. Alternatively, if FC Seoul are expected to dominate possession and carry the ball forward then there's Osmar.

A fresh-faced Ki Sung-yeung in action for FC Seoul in 2009.


Commercial

If Seoul were able to sign Ki then merchandise sales alone would nearly pay for his salary. Anyone who has been to Sangam at any point over the last five years will have seen just how many replica shirts the club has sold with Park Chu-young's name on the back. Park is a club legend and also had a decent career in Europe but Ki captained his country in World Cups. He is seen as the prodigal son and a return would boost merchandise sales tenfold.

His wages won't come cheap and so a return on their investment would help the powers that be justify the outlay. This is not a perfect comparison but one of the more notable examples of how a huge financial outlay can be recouped through merchandising is David Beckham moving to LA Galaxy in 2007. In the New York Sun, it was reported at the time that an additional $13.3 million in revenue was brought in by merchandise sales in the space of just a few months, more than enough to cover his salary for two years. Seoul will almost certainly be to make their money back on Ki.


Eulji Lewis

PR

The club has struggled to pump out good PR for a few years. Letting Dejan leave and join rivals Suwon Bluewings, and persisting with Hwang Sun-hong despite the team being in decline was perhaps the beginning. Other key players were allowed to leave like Yun Il-lok and Osmar on loan after which the club then went on to suffer the indignity of competing in the relegation playoff in 2018. The 2019 season was a step in the right direction but the "sex doll" fiasco brought derision and ridicule from people all over the world and that was before the club record five consecutive defeats. Bringing Ki "home" would help Seoul's decision makers mend fences with the fans and help reignite enthusiasm again on the terraces.

K League

Lee Chung-yong and Ki Sung-yeung both returning in the same season would great for K League. It shows to other Korean National Team stars past and present that returning to Korea is not a step backwards. At 31-years-of-age, Lee and Ki both have plenty of good years left ahead of them and would have the opportunity to add more medals to their collection. Ki's last major honour was the English League Cup in 2013 with Swansea, for Lee that was the Korean League Cup in 2006 with Seoul. Playing for the likes of Ulsan Hyundai or FC Seoul would give them a chance of ending their careers on a high.

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