Obscure Midfielder Scores 2nd Highest Transfer Fee for Korean Footballer

  • By Seok Nam-jun, Lim Kyeong-eop

    January 03, 2017 11:29

    Kwon Kyung-won poses with the trophy after his club won the Arabian Gulf League in 2015, in this photo from Al Ahli's Facebook page.

    News of Korean footballer Kwon Kyung-won's transfer from Al Ahli in the United Arab Emirates to Tianjin Quanjian in the Chinese Super League surprised fans here on Monday.

    The transfer fee agreed between the two clubs is reportedly US$11 million and his salary will be US$3 million a year. This is the second highest transfer fee ever for a Korean footballer after Son Heung-min, when he transferred from Bayer Leverkusen to Tottenham Hotspur for 22 million pounds, which was around W40 billion at the time, in 2015 (US$1=W1,209).

    Now retired Park Ji-sung transferred from Manchester United to Queens Park Rangers for W8.8 billion in 2012. And Swansea City paid some W10.6 billion to Scottish club Celtic to acquire Ki Sung-yueng in the same year.

    Kwon has never played on the Olympic or the national team and is relatively unknown to ordinary fans who do not keenly follow the Middle Eastern football leagues.

    He played in 20 matches in his professional rookie year with Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in the K-League in 2013, but only played five matches in his second year. His breakthrough came in late 2014 when he joined his club training for the next season in the UAE. He was spotted by Al Ahli's coach Cosmin Olăroiu, who saw the potential of the 189-cm left-footed player to serve as both a defensive midfielder and center back and approached him with an offer.

    Al Ahli offered Kwon a large six-bedroom mansion with a private pool overlooking the beach to live with his family, and Kwon proved the club was right with an excellent season. He played nearly every minute of every match and led the team to a second-place finish in the Asian Football Confederation Champions League in 2015, scoring the game-winning goal in a semifinal to lift the team to the final.

    Kwon spent two seasons with Al Ahli, which won the Arabian Gulf League in the last season and is at the top tier in the current season. His performance with Al Ahli grabbed the attention of a number of Chinese clubs who have a keen interest in Korean defenders.

    Kwon hopes that his decision to go to China on a big deal will propel his career further and one day he will be selected to the Korean national team.

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