S. Korean World Cup star sees Premier League as ‘ultimate destination’

WANJU, South Korea, Jan. 12 (Yonhap) — Having reportedly fielded offers from multiple European clubs, South Korean World Cup hero Cho Gue-sung said Thursday the Premier League in England is his “ultimate destination.”

Cho, striker for Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors who led the K League 1 with 17 goals in 2022, had a star turn at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar last year.

He scored two header goals against Ghana during the group stage, becoming the first South Korean to score multiple goals in a World Cup match. Cho started attracting interest from European clubs, and Mainz 05 of the Bundesliga and Celtic of the Scottish Premiership are believed to be the leading contenders for Cho’s services.

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors forward Cho Gue-sung speaks during a press conference at the team's clubhouse in Wanju, 190 kilometers south of Seoul, on Jan. 12, 2023. (Yonhap)

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors forward Cho Gue-sung speaks during a press conference at the team’s clubhouse in Wanju, 190 kilometers south of Seoul, on Jan. 12, 2023. (Yonhap)

Speaking with reporters at Jeonbuk’s clubhouse in Wanju, some 190 kilometers south of Seoul, Cho said he hasn’t decided exactly when he should take his talent overseas.

If not the current transfer window that closes on Jan. 31, Cho can target the summer transfer period.

“I’ve seen a lot of articles but I haven’t heard anything all that specific myself,” Cho said. “I’ve been speaking with my agent, our technical director Park Ji-sung, and head coach Kim Sang-sik about whether it’s better for me to leave now or in the summer.”

There are pros and cons to both options. Cho is a hot commodity now, just about a couple of months removed from his World Cup breakout. On the other hand, he will be jumping into a new league and a new country in the middle of the season, and he’ll be forced to make adjustments on the fly.

If he chooses to move in the summer, Cho will be joining his new team before the start of the new season, which will give him enough runway to get acclimated to his surroundings.

Cho sounded as though he’d rather leave when he can.

“Honestly, any player would want to pounce on a good opportunity to leave right away if it’s there,” Cho said. “If I don’t leave now, maybe the teams that want to sign me will change their mind in the summer. My stock may drop or I may lose my form.”

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors forward Cho Gue-sung speaks during a press conference at the team's clubhouse in Wanju, 190 kilometers south of Seoul, on Jan. 12, 2023. (Yonhap)

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors forward Cho Gue-sung speaks during a press conference at the team’s clubhouse in Wanju, 190 kilometers south of Seoul, on Jan. 12, 2023. (Yonhap)

On the other hand, he was also worried about how well and quickly he can adjust to European football.

“Players in Europe are in midseason form, but I am just ramping up after some time off. The key is how competitive I can be in that situation,” Cho said. “I also wonder if a European team would be willing to wait for me to come around.”

Cho said he has reached out to Jeonbuk teammates who’ve played in Europe in the past, namely former FC Barcelona youth player Paik Seung-ho and former Bundesliga defender Kim Jin-su. They’ve all given him different answers, though.

“At the end, I should make the decision myself, and not let different opinions get to my head too much,” Cho said.

Mainz 05 currently employ Korean midfielder Lee Jae-sung, who also played at the World Cup. In their recent conversation, Cho said Lee didn’t seem so sure that Cho could crack the starting lineup at the German club right away.

As much attention as Cho has been getting from Scotland and Germany, Cho said he’d love to end up in the Premier League one day.

“I think all football players have the ultimate destination on mind, and I think everyone would love to play in the Premier League,” he said. “I will try to figure out how I can keep improving myself and which club will give me that kind of opportunity.”

In this file photo from Nov. 28, 2022, Cho Gue-sung of South Korea celebrates his goal against Ghana during the countries' Group H match at the FIFA World Cup at Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, west of Doha.  (Yonhap)

In this file photo from Nov. 28, 2022, Cho Gue-sung of South Korea celebrates his goal against Ghana during the countries’ Group H match at the FIFA World Cup at Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, west of Doha. (Yonhap)

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