South Korean Star Set For Villa Switch?

Swansea’s South Korean international midfielder, Ki Sung-yeung, has emerged as the latest transfer target linked with a move to Villa Park this summer as Paul Lambert looks to press forward with a cut-price recruitment drive designed to ensure that the Villains maintain their top-flight status in the coming campaign.

The Scottish manager’s financial power has been greatly limited this pre-season owing to the fact that Villa’s owner, Randy Lerner, very publically put the club up for sale at the beginning of the summer. The American billionaire is determined to cut his losses on an investment plan that has cost his holding company, Reform Acquisitions Limited, in excess of £217 million during his eight year stint in Birmingham.

Ki’s addition would be the latest in a string of solid if uninspiring signings for Villa this summer. Lambert has placed a decided emphasis on the acquisition of proven Premier League talent in his recruitment plans to date, having so far brought in Joe Cole, Kieran Richardson, and Phillip Senderos on free transfers.

Ki would certainly correspond to this formula. The 25 year-old central midfielder has spent the majority of his playing career in Britain since leaving the K League Classic side, FC Seoul, for Celtic three years after making his professional debut in 2007, aged 18. Ki fast established his credentials as one of the foremost emerging talents in Asian football during his time at Seoul; his imposing physique, athletic dynamism, and hard running marked him out early as a warrant for the more robust European game.

Celtic clinched a £2.1 milion transfer for Ki in the 2009 January transfer window at the end of the K-League season. By October of the following campaign Ki had enshrined himself in the first XI at Parkhead and stood among the most technically accomplished midfielders in the SPL. Ki made 66 appearances for Celtic during his three year spell in Glasgow, winning one Scottish Cup and one SPL title before agreeing a £6 million move to Swansea in the summer of 2012.

Swansea had established themselves as one of the most attractive sides in the English game under Brenden Rodgers and Ki’s progressive passing game and technical elan was seen to fit comfortably with the philosophy that the Northern Ireland coach, and then Michael Laudrup, instilled at the South Wales club. Ki enjoyed a promising debut season in the Premier League, although he failed to replicate quite the same level of form that he had consistently displayed at Celtic. The highlight of Ki’s time in Wales was undoubtedly Swansea’s League Cup triumph over Bradford in February, 2013.

In the summer of 2013 Ki was surprisingly loaned out to Sunderland for the duration of the season where he featured prominently in a Gus Poyet side that only narrowly avoided relegation along with Aston Villa. The South Korean made 27 appearances for Sunderland last time out, contributing three goals. Ki went on to feature in all three of his national side’s games in the recent Brazil World Cup as South Korea exited in the group stage.

One suspects that Ki would constitute more a squad player than an automatic starter should his arrival to Villa Park come to pass. The Korean’s hard running and dynamic passing game could positively counterpoint Fabian Delph’s comparable midfield playing style and he would add some much needed depth to an area of the pitch in which Villa were at points exposed in the previous campaign. It is by no means a signing that will start drawing more fans to games, however, it may just be the sort of experienced and functional acquisition that the Birmingham club need if they are to remain in the Premier League for another season.

Sean Donnelly