Next season will see the South Korean contingent in the Bundesliga rise to three after RB Leipzig signed striker Hwang Hee-Chan from Red Bull Salzburg. The former teammate and of Erling Haaland will want to emulate his ex-strike partner and step into the goal scoring boots left by departure of Timo Werner in Saxony.
Erling Haaland may have grabbed most of the headlines earlier in the season for his goal scoring exploits with RB Salzburg leading to his January move to Borussia Dortmund, but no less effective for the Austrian side was 24-year-old Hwang Hee-chan. It was the Norwegian, who scored a hat-trick against Genk in the Champions League, but it was the Korean, who bamboozled Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk (few do that) to score a stunning goal and Anfield and was instrumental in almost causing an upset against the reigning European champions.
Hwang initially caught the eye of Salzburg scoring for fun with Pohang Steelers and was signed to their second division feeder club FC Liefering at first in January 2015. After scoring 11 goals in 18 matches, he was switched to Salzburg at the end of the year and set about impressing everyone with his goals and all-round play.
With current Borussia Mönchengladbach coach Marco Rose as his coach, Hwang scored 12 goals in his debut season in the Austrian Bundesliga in a team that contained many current Bundesliga players (Amadou Haidara, Xaver Schlager Stefan Lainer). He and Salzburg narrowly missed out on a place in the 2018 Europa League final having overcome Borussia Dortmund in the quarter final. Marseille would knock them out in the semis.
He spent the 2018-19 season on loan at Hamburg in the 2. Bundesliga, but a series of injuries hampered his progress and he only scored twice in his 20 appearances. Back at Salzburg this season he helped them to the double scoring 16 goals and adding 22 assists in 40 matches in all competitions in 2019/20.
That form led to RB Leipzig deciding he was just the man to replace the departing Timo Werner and yet another Red Bull Salzburg player was making the journey from one fizzy drinks affiliate to the other. Leipzig have paid €15 million and they will hopefully link him up with Patrik Schick, who they are trying to sign permanently from Roma after his successful loan.
“In Hee-chan Hwang we have signed a player who fits the profile of what we are looking for,” Leipzig’s sporting director Markus Krösche explained. “He can play in any attacking position, on the wings or as a main man in the middle. He makes our attack more flexible with his speed and mobility. He had a great season in Austria, as both a goal scorer and provider, and he particularly impressed in the Champions League.”
Leipzig can only dream that Hwang has the same impact that Erling Haaland has had at BVB following his move from Salzburg, but he has the ability and promise to emulate countryman Son Heung-min. Son enjoyed a fantastic spell at Bayer Leverkusen before moving to Tottenham and the fans at the Red Bull Arena will want Hwang to help ease the loss of Timo Werner’s goals.
“I’m excited for the new challenge at RB Leipzig! I want to help the team continue to be as successful as possible and achieve this young club’s ambitious goals” he said on his unveiling. “The club’s aims and style of football are both perfect for me. I want to take my next step as a professional here in Leipzig. On top of that, I want to score as many goals as possible.”