KI SUNG-YUENG didn’t know it the time, but he was about to become a trailblazer for South Korean talent when he signed for Celtic in January 2010.

The gifted international agreed to join the Parkhead side in August the previous year after FC Seoul had accepted a £2.1million bid for their hottest property.

However, the midfielder remained with the K-League club until the completion of their season at the turn of the year before he could finally join up with his new team-mates in Scotland.

LIFT-OFF…Ki Sung-yeung takes to the air as he blasts in Celtic’s opener in the 3-0 Scottish Cup Final triumph over Motherwell at Hampden in May 2011. Gary Hooper gets a close-up view.

Ki made his Hoops debut in a 1–1 home draw against Falkirk on January 16, just a fortnight after his arrival. He made only four more appearances that season, but, after scoring his first goal for the club in a 4-0 win over St Mirren early in the new term, he became a regular in Neil Lennon’s side.

He netted the breakthrough strike in Celtic’s 3-0 Scottish Cup Final triumph over Motherwell in May 2011 with a superb long-range, left-foot drive just after the half-hour mark. Stephen Craigan deflected a drive into his own net in the 78th minute before Charlie Mulgrew made certain near the end.

The following season, Lennon said: “He’s a very important player to us. I rate him very highly. He can go on to be anything he wants to be. We think he is a class player and we’re glad he’s here.

“He has good presence and good composure on the ball. He has a goal or two in him and his passing range is excellent.”

HAMPDEN HAPPY DAZE…Ki Sung-yueng celebrates his Cup Final strike.

His form attracted Swansea City, then in the Premier League, and the Hoops accepted a bid of £6million in August 2012 for one of their star men. A year later, he moved to Sunderland in a season-long loan. Ki returned to the Welsh club for the start of the 2014/15 campaign.

Following Swansea’s relegation, free agent Ki joined Newcastle United in a two-year deal. On January 31 2020, he left the Tyneside outfit by mutual consent and joined La Liga side RCD Mallorca a month later.

After 11 years in Europe, Ki, now 35, returned to FC Seoul in July 2020.

Countryman and international right-back Cha Du-Ri also had a two-year stint at Parkhead before joining Fortuna Dusseldorf in 2012 while Brendan Rodgers has the South Korean trio of striker Oh Hyeon-gyu, winger Yang Hyun-jun and midfielder Kwon Hyeok-kyu in his first-team squad.

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