Despite Neil Lennon running out of superlatives to describe Chung-Yong Lee, it seems the South Korean maestro is set for the Bolton Wanderers exit door.
South Korean starlet Chung-Yong Lee is currently away on international duty at the Asia Cup, and if rumours this week are to be believed then he may well not return to Bolton Wanderers.
Chungy has been one of the big positives of Bolton Wanderers’ revival over the past few months. The South Korean playmaker has looked like a new player since the arrival of Neil Lennon so, while it’s hardly a shock, news that he is set to leave the club this month will be a disappointment to most Bolton fans.
Under Dougie Freedman in the first couple of months of this season and most of last season Chungy looked disinterested, he was lacking in confidence, shying away from tackles and had lost the creative spark of old. Many put this down to the effects of the broken leg that saw him sidelined for almost the entirety of the 2011/12 campaign, and many others blamed bad management – both of which were probably fair assessments.
But Lennon has worked his magic to inspire the performances we’ve all been craving from the South Korean. Indeed, last season Chungy managed just three goals in 45 league matches – he has already matched that figure in just 21 league games so far this campaign. He has been instrumental in Wanderers’ fine form in the last couple of months and looks to have rediscovered his confidence and, subsequently, his eye for goal and creative brilliance.
But the net result of this return to form, which has warranted Lennon’s public praise of the midfielder, is that other clubs have started to take notice. Today Crystal Palace, newly under the guidance of Alan Pardew, have expressed an interested and a move looks likely as contract talks appear to have broken down.
Manager Lennon admitted as much yesterday, saying: ‘He`s ambitious, he`s 26 and he`s got his peak years ahead of him. If we were in a stronger position we`d be able to coax him into staying but we are not at the minute.
‘I might as well be up front about it – it all points to him leaving. But we`ll see.’
The player himself also seems to suggest a move is likely, telling South Korean media in the build-up to the Asia Cup: ‘If I perform well at the Asian Cup, I will get a good offer.’
You can’t really fault Chungy for wanting to leave, or hold a grudge against him if he does move on. He’s stayed with Bolton for near three years since our relegation from the Premier League and he’s been fantastic in recent weeks. He deserves the chance to play at a higher level, and if he does go then the best of luck to him.
The bigger concern for Bolton is how we replace his undoubted talent – especially as the team is already painfully lacking in creativity. The transfer fee and freeing up of Chungy’s wages would certainly be a boost to Lennon’s quest to bring in reinforcements, and it’ll be interesting to see who he looks to as a replacement.
We’ve been strongly linked to Kris Commons, who is certainly a proven goalscorer and creator of goals, while Nick Powell is another name that has been mentioned with a loan move. Powell was fantastic at Crewe and, unsurprisingly, has faltered since being signed by Manchester United. He had a bizarrely unsuccessful loan spell at Leicester earlier this season, but enjoyed a decent spell on loan at Wigan last year, including scoring against Bolton, and you’d bet on him being a success at the Macron.
What is for sure is that Lennon will want all of this settled as soon as possible so that he can continue building his squad for a push at the play-offs. Whether Chungy stays or goes I wish him the best of luck, but I’d obviously prefer him to commit himself to the club and lead us back to where we belong.