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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Cho Gue-sung may not be going anywhere this winter: Jeonbuk

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Cho Gue-sung reacts during a 2022 Qatar World Cup group H match between Korea and Portugal at Education City Stadium in Al-Rayyan, Doha on Dec. 2, 2022.  [AFP/YONHAP]
Cho Gue-sung reacts during a 2022 Qatar World Cup group H match between Korea and Portugal at Education City Stadium in Al-Rayyan, Doha on Dec. 2, 2022. [AFP/YONHAP]

Despite making a name for himself at the 2022 Qatar World Cup and drawing interest from multiple clubs in Europe and the United States, Cho Gue-sung may not be on the move this winter.

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, Cho’s current club in Korea’s K League, told reporters Monday that while there is still a chance of Cho being traded this winter, there is general agreement that it might be better to wait for a better deal next summer.

In the meantime, Cho is expected to join the club at a spring training camp in Spain.

Jeonbuk have reportedly received offers from Scottish club Celtic and U.S. side Minnesota United for star forward Cho, with Mainz 05 of the Bundesliga also still in the picture.

Celtic are believed to have tabled an offer at £3 million ($4.5 million) for Cho, likely entering into discussions with former Manchester United star Park Ji-sung, who is technical director at Jeonbuk.

That move has received tacit support from Korea teammate Son Heung-min, who told reporters; “My advice for him would be to go and don’t be afraid of playing on the European stage.”

Minnesota have upped the game slightly, reportedly offering $5 million, but without the attraction of a spot in a European league. Mainz are said to have offered £2.5 million.

Cho left Qatar as Korea’s biggest rising star, pulling in fans with both his prowess in front of goal and his K-pop star good looks.

Cho, who is yet to play outside of Korea’s K League, saw his number of Instagram followers increase by 2 million after making his World Cup debut in Korea’s opening game against Uruguay. Media requests quickly followed, with a topless Cho gracing the front cover of the January Korean edition of Vogue magazine.

But look away from the beauty parade and there’s plenty for football fans to get excited about. Cho left the Qatar World Cup after appearing in four games, starting three and scoring two goals, both against Ghana on Nov. 28.

Dig a little deeper into the numbers and there’s even more reason to get excited about Cho. According to statistics accumulator Squawka, Cho proved to be one of the greatest players in the air in Qatar. The young Korean forward won 21 aerial duels, putting him second in terms of success in the air among all players at the World Cup, after Morocco’s Youssef En-Nesyri.

In football analytics, a duel is used to refer to any clash between two players, whether in the air or on the ground. Every duel has a winner and a loser — the winner is the one that gets the ball.

Ranking second for aerial duel wins across the entire World Cup clearly highlights just how deadly Cho is in the air. On 21 occasions he successfully headed the ball while jostling with an opposing player, including for both goals against Ghana.

Cho was also the top scorer in the K League last season with 17 goals.

BY JIM BULLEY [jim.bulley@joongang.co.kr]

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