Although January marks the start of silly season with the transfer window opening for business, smart clubs will be weighing up players out of contract in the summer and be looking to pencil pre-contract agreements.
Stars with expiring contracts such as Robert Lewandowski will be at the top of plenty of clubs’ wishlists in January, but there will be plenty of other players that could well be the bargain of next season just waiting to be approached.
The South Korea international signed a three-year contract with Sunderland back in 2011, but has had a largely frustrating time in England. Over the course of two and a half years, the Asian attacker has only managed 22 Premier League appearances and two goals.
The most memorable moment of the 22-year-old’s time with the Wearside club came back on New Year’s Day in 2012, when he was introduced as a substitute and scored the winner for the Black Cats against Manchester City.
Apart from this momentous strike, Ji’s time on Wearside has been distinctly forgettable. The player is currently back in South Korea rehabilitating from injury, and looks certain to leave the Stadium of light next summer.
Despite the mediocrity of his time in the Premier League, Ji is a player that has shown over the course of his short career that he has superstar potential.
The forward made his name in his homeland in the Chunnam Dragons’ first team, making 33 appearances for the side and scoring 10 K-League goals. However, it was his exploits on the international stage that earned him a move to Europe.
Ji starred for South Korea age grade sides over the course of 2009 and 2010; firstly netting six goals in nine appearances for the under-20 outfit and then starring for the under-23 side.
Despite only being 22, Ji has already represented South Korea’s senior side 26 times and has eight international goals to his name. With next summer’s World Cup on the horizon, the attacker will have centre stage to show just how good he is and attract potential suitors.
However, by that time he may well already be signed up for next season, with Germany looking a likely destination. Ji was farmed out to Augsburg for the second half of last season, and starred with five goals that played their part in helping the side narrowly avoid top-flight relegation.
A host of Bundesliga teams have since been linked with Ji, but it appears that one of the biggest clubs in the country lead the race for his signature, with Borussia Dortmund reportedly closing in.
With the likes of Son Heung-Min becoming a star in the German top flight, it appears that the Bundesliga suits players from South Korea and would be a great destination for Ji.
Despite the relatively moderate reputation that Ji has in Europe currently after a botched tenure at Sunderland, his evident ability and potential could see him as a top-class and free signing for his next employers.