Yang Hyun-joon to Celtic, ’11th’ Gangwon who couldn’t get away…how will they be remembered?

먹튀검증Yang Hyun-jun (21) has fulfilled a long-held dream of playing in Europe. His new destination is Celtic (Scotland).

“Yang Hyun-joon is transferring to Celtic,” Gangwon FC CEO Kim Byung-ji announced on the club’s YouTube live broadcast on the 15th. The transfer fee is worth more than €2.5 million (approx. KRW 3.57 billion), and Kim personally signed Yang’s transfer contract during the broadcast. Established in 1887, Celtic is a prestigious Scottish club that has won 53 top-flight titles in the past, with Ki Sung-yong and Cha Doo-ri having played for the club in the past, and Oh Hyun-gyu joining the team in January this year.

In his second year as a professional, Yang showed tremendous growth last year, winning both the K League and the Korean Football Association’s Young Player of the Year awards. In July that year, he played in a friendly against Tottenham (England) as part of the K League All-Stars and impressed. This prompted Celtic to take an interest in Yang, sending scouts to watch him play in key K League matches in May this year and making an offer last month.

It was a great opportunity for the player, but not for Gangwon, who were in the midst of an ongoing crisis that saw them slip into the relegation zone after a disastrous run of form, with Choi Yong-soo stepping down and Yoon Jung-hwan taking over as head coach. The stakes were high. The club wanted to wait until the winter, after they had overcome the crisis this season, while the player insisted on ‘now’.

Eventually, Kangwon gave in. Yang said, “I’m happy, but it’s a heavy heart. I’m sorry I left when the team was in trouble,” he said, and left the team after two and a half years. He has nine goals and five assists in 66 games in the K League. This year, he struggled with one goal and one assist in 21 games.

The player had achieved his dream, but the club was still in jeopardy. On the day of Ace’s departure, the team drew 1-1 at home against FC Seoul in the 23rd round of the Hana OneQ K League 1 2023 at Gangneung Sports Complex. They took the lead through Yoo In-Soo in the 30th minute before conceding an equaliser to Osmar in the 22nd minute. Gangwon, which went 13 matches without a win (six draws and seven defeats), remained in 11th place with two wins, 10 draws and 16 points, but the gap between them and bottom-placed Suwon Samsung (3 wins, 6 draws and 14 defeats – 15 points), which defeated leaders Ulsan Hyundai 3-1, was reduced to one point from the previous four. The pressure is compounded by the fact that Suwon is their opponent in round 24 (22nd – home).

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