LONDON – South Korean soccer player Ki Sung-Yueng is poised to cash in on his Summer Games success. The 23-year-old midfielder has been lined up for a switch to the high-profile English Premier League club Arsenal.
Ki was in stellar form during the Olympic men's soccer tournament, helping the Koreans defeat host nation Great Britain in a dramatic quarterfinal penalty shootout.
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The move, reported by several British newspapers, is expected to land Ki a contract worth $20 million over the next four years with Arsenal, which had to loosen its typically rigid pay structure.
The London club has lost out on several transfer targets in recent years by being unwilling to match offers elsewhere. But Arsenal has adopted a new policy after finishing third in the EPL last season, 19 points behind champions Manchester City. It has already added notable players Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla.
Ki plays for leading Scottish team Glasgow Celtic, but a move to Arsenal would be a significant step up in terms of quality, profile and pay. He was identified by Arsenal chief scout Steve Rowley, whose opinion carries a lot of weight with head coach Arsene Wenger.
Ki, who scored in Korea's shootout win over Great Britain, is still under contract with Celtic, so Arsenal will need to pay a transfer fee in the region of $15 million to the Scottish team.
Any concerns that Ki would have difficulty adapting to life in England have been allayed by the fact that he has regularly spoken of how much he likes living in the United Kingdom since signing for Celtic. He also spent much of his childhood in Australia and is a fluent English speaker.
South Korea was knocked out of the Games by Brazil in a 3-0 semifinal defeat. However, the efforts of the Asian side, and especially Ki, grabbed plenty of attention. Hopes are high that several members of the squad can go on to become valuable contributors for the full senior team.
Olympic soccer features squads with players who are 23 years of age or younger and allows only three overage players. The South Koreans seek their first Olympic soccer medal ever on Friday in the bronze-medal game against Japan.
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