Leeds United have been dealt a blow in their bid to bring Hwang Hee-chan to Elland Road this summer.
In recent comments cited by the Express & Star, Bruno Lage revealed that, despite Jesse Marsch being heavily linked with a £25m move for the Wolves forward in recent days, he is more than happy to retain the services of the 26-year-old winger beyond the closure of the summer transfer window next week.
Regarding the future of the South Korea international, Lage said: “I’m very happy with him and I like him a lot.
“Hwang spends a lot of time in the academy like other players and he wants to be in his best shape all the time, and do everything he can to play. So we’re talking about a great professional, a great kid, a top player and someone who scored six important goals for us last season.
“Who wouldn’t want a player like him? I want him, I like him, but in the end, we need to understand the market and the situation of the club. So we are looking for players from other teams, and we need to expect other teams are looking at our players also. He can play as a winger – especially on the left – and as a striker, like he’s done in the first few games.”
Considering just how short Marsch currently is of centre-forward depth behind Patrick Bamford, and with the American having already enjoyed a great deal of success with the 26-year-old during their mutual time at Red Bull Salzburg, the news that Lage appears adamant to keep a hold of Hwang beyond Thursday’s transfer deadline is sure to have left the Leeds coach gutted.
Indeed, Hwang’s remarkable record of 16 goals and 24 assists over 43 appearances for Marsch in Austria – with the forward averaging a direct goal contribution for every 66 minutes of football played – played a key role in the American’s success at Salzburg, with the duo helping the club to secure a league and cup double in 2019/20.
In that campaign, the £14.4m-rated forward was in scintillating form over his 27 Austrian Bundesliga appearances, bagging 11 goals, providing 13 assists and creating 15 big chances for his team-mates, along with taking 1.7 shots, making 1.6 key passes and completing 1.2 dribbles per game.
These returns saw the player who Richard Buxton dubbed “incredible” average a sensational SofaScore match rating of 7.29, not only ranking him as Marsch’s joint sixth-best player in the league – behind the likes of Erling Haaland, Dominik Szoboszlai and Patson Daka – but also as the joint seventh-best performer in the Austrian top flight as a whole that season.
As such, with the versatile Hwang – who can operate on either wing and as a centre-forward – appearing to be a player from whom Marsch can extract his best form, and with the 48-year-old being in rather desperate need of backup to the injury-prone Bamford, a £25m move for the Korean would appear to make a great deal of sense for Leeds.
However, following Lage’s latest comments concerning the immediate future of the former Salzburg sensation, it would seem as if Marsch will have his work cut out in convincing the Portuguese coach to part with the 26-year-old in the coming days – especially considering how badly the two managers fell out during in the Whites’ 2-1 victory over Wolves earlier this season.