Not many South Koreans have played in the Premier League but when they have they have usually been very consistent and never let their team down.
Lee Young-Pyo played over 100 times for his country and had a very good club career that led to him playing in a Champions League semi final. But it was at Anyang LG Cheetahs where he began playing and showed good form from an early age which meant he was picked for the 2002 World Cup squad. South Korea performed brilliantly in the tournament and reached the semi finals. The player himself put in some impressive performances and was linked with moves away from his homeland.
It was the former South Korea manager Guus Hiddink that brought him to Europe to play for Dutch side PSV. Lee alongside his countryman Park Ji Sung helped the club to the Eredivisie title twice and the KNVB Cup. After playing 109 times for the team he was heavily linked with moves to France and England but PSV were reluctant to let him go. In the end he was allowed to leave and he joined Tottenham Hotspur. Hiddink said on his departure. “I didn’t want him to go. But he did well from his very first working day and has made so much progress.”
Lee settled into the Premier League very quickly and in his first season played nearly every game with Spurs conceding the fourth lowest in the league. Martin Jol was impressed by his signing and the pedigree he brought with him. “Lee has played at PSV for three years and was in the South Korean side which reached the semi finals of the World Cup. He has played in the Champions League – reaching the semi finals last season – and was the best left back in Holland.”
He played mostly at left back at Spurs but was moved to right back for the start of the 2006-07 season. However he lost his place after the club signed Pascal Chimbonda and he could not dislodge Benoit Assou-Ekotto from the left back spot. When he did finally win his place back he suffered a season ending knee injury against Sevilla but he did manage to recover enough to win a League Cup winners medal in the next and his final season at the club.
His next move was to the German side Borussia Dortmund where he spent one season playing 22 times and even though he signed a contract extension, he moved to Al-Hilal in 2009. He only spent two years in Saudi Arabia but he did score his first goal in five years and won the league title both years he was at the club.
His final move was to Vancouver Whitecaps where he enjoyed a lot of personal success and was named their player of the year in 2012. Lee played his final professional game on 27th October 2013 and was given the match ball by his teammates after a very solid performance. The last word can go Martin Rennie the Whitecaps head coach. “Lee is a quality individual and leader – both on and off the pitch – that has excelled at all levels of the game.”