Robert Lewandowski’s departure from Bayern Munich seems to be inevitable at this point. As long as his dream destination Barcelona can reach a financial agreement with Bayern (which remains to be seen), Lewandowski is destined to swap Germany for Spain this summer. The big question is, who can replace him? Who can fill the shoes of arguably the best striker on the planet?
Names like Stuttgart’s Saša Kalajdžić, Lille’s Jonathan David, and even Bayern youth product Joshua Zirkzee are being thrown around, with David being one of the more recent additions to Bayern’s potential shopping list. However, there is one striker that everyone has been overlooking. Someone who’s been pretty prolific in a hard situation, and someone who could be a pleasant surprise.
His name? Hwang Uijo, of Bordeaux and South Korea.
Hwang was a pretty late bloomer in terms of international development. He started out as a talented starlet in the K-League, before moving to the J-League and spending three years there. However, he didn’t really get that much attention until 2018, when he was surprisingly selected for Korea’s Asian Games squad. At that time, Hwang only had a couple of caps to his name, and his international performances weren’t spectacular. Almost every fan doubted his abilities leading up to the tournament in Indonesia.
But Hwang silenced his many critics by being the best player of the entire tournament. He scored nine goals in seven games, including two hat tricks(!) against Bahrain and Uzbekistan. He was the driving force behind Korea’s gold medal, and his performance was rewarded with an immediate callup to the senior team. His prolific run didn’t stop at the senior level, and he ended 2018 with a pretty good record of 33 games in 47 games for club and country. To this day, he’s become Korea’s main starting striker, has 16 goals in 47 international appearances at the time of writing, and is set to lead Korea’s attack at the upcoming World Cup.
As his form continued to skyrocket, Hwang moved to France in 2019. His first season with Bordeaux wasn’t too impressive, with 6 goals in 26 games. However, he was mostly played as a winger/second striker that season, so it makes sense that his numbers would dwindle a bit compared to his striker days. The following season, he doubled his tally with 12 goals in 37 games, becoming Bordeaux’s top scorer and being nominated for Ligue 1’s team of the season. His third season was pretty similar, with 11 goals in 32 games. Although he did have a bit of a mid-season slump, that was mainly due to fatigue (he was also called up to the Olympics). However, it seems Hwang’s Bordeaux days are coming to an end, with the team being relegated to Ligue 2, and even being threatened with another relegation due to financial problems.
Now, Hwang is definitely not a top level striker like Karim Benzema or Harry Kane. Not even Korean fans will say that. But he is a very good striker, and he would be a good addition to any club, including Bayern.
The best word to describe Hwang’s style of play would be ‘dynamic.’ He’s not the fastest player out there, but he’s very agile and has a good first touch. These traits allow him to be a versatile forward who can score from a lot of different angles. In this way, he’s not unlike Lewandowski. He’s also good off the ball, and can get himself into good positions to score. His link up play isn’t bad either. His shooting isn’t the best, but even that’s improved ever since he came to Europe. I guess he’s like a combination of Lewandowski and Thomas Müller, albeit with lower numbers. His weaknesses lie in his pace and aerial ability, but his strengths are enough to cover them up. It’s no coincidence that he’s been scoring consistently for a relegation level team, not to mention a modest national team. Last but not least, he’s a pretty good penalty taker as well.
Is this skill set good enough for Hwang to start for the best club in the world? Maybe, maybe not. But he would be a good depth piece. After signing Sadio Mané, it seems like Bayern are looking for someone who can rotate in and out of the striker position, preferably helping out his teammates in attack rather than bearing the goalscoring burden entirely on his shoulders. Hwang can definitely help in that aspect, and would be a versatile option. He can also play on the side and a bit deeper in attack, which would give the team a number of options.
What’s more, Hwang is cheap. His market value is a mere 7 million euros, which is a huge bargain for a striker of his quality. That 7m price tag could even become zero if Bordeaux does become relegated to the third division, which would force them to free their players of their contracts. In other words, an international class striker could be available on a free this summer.
And of course, one cannot describe Hwang without mentioning his market value. Koreans are pretty passionate about supporting their compatriots, and in a footballing sense, that becomes extremely evident. Tottenham Hotspur sold tons of jerseys with Son Heungmin’s name and number. Hwang would do the same for Bayern, and he would also bring an influx of new Bundesliga fans. Bayern’s preexisting name value plus Hwang’s own would mean that almost every Korean fan would be queuing up to buy his shirt. You thought Mané was profitable? Wait till you see the power of the Asian market. It also helps that Hwang is looked on with favor in Japan as well due to his time with Gamba Osaka.
So, all in all, Hwang seems like a pretty decent addition to Bayern. He would be a blessing to any team, but it would be a win-win situation for all parties involved if he signs for the Bavarians. Of course, again, he is nowhere near Lewandowski’s level, and he probably never will be. But nevertheless, he has shown that he has the ability to make it in a top European league. Who’s to say that he can’t take another step forward?