Hwang In-beom’s campaign to find a way out of Greece may finally have come to fruition, with local reports Monday that Red Star Belgrade have agreed to pay a club record 5 million euros ($5.4 million) for the midfielder.
According to both Greek and Serbian reports, Hwang is set to join Red Star — officially Crvena Zvezda, but known as Red Star Belgrade in English media — after the international break, with a deal reportedly already agreed with his current club Olympiacos.스포츠토토
Red Star are a bastion of eastern European football. As the most successful team anywhere in the Balkans or southeast Europe, they enjoy the support of nearly 50 percent of the Serbian population and have won the Serbian SuperLiga for the last six consecutive seasons.
Red Star are also a regular presence in UEFA competition. This season they will compete in the UEFA Champions League, drawn in Group G alongside reigning champions Manchester City, RB Leipzig and Young Boys.
Hwang has been pushing to leave Greek side Olympiacos since the start of the summer, despite having earned Player of the Year honors at the club last season.
A versatile and stoic presence in the midfield, Hwang arrived in Olympiacos after his burgeoning career with Russian side Rubin Kazan was cut short by the country’s invasion of the Ukraine. Greece was a convenient entry point to Europe, but for a player of Hwang’s caliber it was only ever supposed to be a brief stepping stone.
But despite reported interest from Rangers, Inter Milan, Napoli, Frankfurt and Monchengladbach, Olympiacos was unwilling to let Hwang go without a hefty transfer fee.
That number was said to be 15 million euros, significantly higher than the amount Red Star are reportedly playing, but the nature of the deal may have changed now that most European transfer windows are closed but the Serbian window is open until Sept. 15.
If it goes through, the move to Serbia, yet another league that Hwang likely hopes to grow out of, will be the latest installment in what has been a very tumultuous career for the young midfielder.
At 26-years-old, Hwang has already gone through more off-the-pitch upheavals than most players will in their entire career — and none of them were his fault.
After starting his career with Daejeon Citizen in 2015, Hwang started his military service in 2018 with Asan Mugunghwa. That move proved to be short-lived, as Hwang earned a military exemption at the 2018 Asian Games and dropped straight back into the Daejeon squad.
In 2019, Hwang moved to the Vancouver Whitecaps in the Major League Soccer league on a two-year deal, but was traded to Rubin Kazan in the Russian league in 2020.
Hwang appeared to find his feet in Russia, establishing himself as a regular starter with Rubin Kazan and gaining a reputation as one of the best playmakers in the league. Despite a run in with Covid-19 and an ankle injury, Hwang remained a consistent figure in the Rubin Kazan squad for the best part of two years.
Then Russia invaded Ukraine, prompting FIFA to permit foreign players to leave the country and eventually to void their contracts.
Hwang eventually returned to Korea where he played out the rest of the 2022 season with FC Seoul, making nine appearances during his brief spell with the club. He re-signed with the club in July last year, only to sign with Olympiacos a week later.
Olympiacos, despite being the winningest team in Greek football history, are about as unstable as a club can get. During his one season with the club so far, Hwang played under four different managers, saw 21 signings and 47 players used.
But even more bizarrely, the club spent a good part of the season threatening to resign from the league, despite club president and owner Evangelos Marinakis, also the owner of Nottingham Forest and the man behind a lot of the complaints about the league, also being the president of the league.
Olympiacos’ constant threats to resign come due to the club’s belief that the league is rigged. Accusations of corruption — and, not so long ago, evidence of it — are incredibly common in Greece, prompting the league to use only foreign referees during playoffs due to constant accusations of bias against domestic referees.
Or at least that used to be the case. UEFA withdrew its commitment to provide referees in May after Italian referee Davide Massa reported that as he entered the changing room following a fiery clash between league leaders AEK Athens and Olympiacos, he felt “a blow on the genitals without recognizing from whom,” according to the official match report.
UEFA quickly determined that the safety of match officials cannot be guaranteed in Greece, withdrawing all outside referees.
Against this backdrop, Hwang’s bid to get out of Greece was hardly surprising.
Hwang’s future will likely be decided in the next few days, although he won’t be going anywhere for a couple of weeks.
Hwang is currently on international duty with the Korean team in Britain, where he started training yesterday ahead of a friendly against Wales on Thursday and Saudi Arabia on Sept. 12.
Both Olympiacos and Red Star are scheduled to return to their respective league football on Sept. 16, although which team Hwang will be playing for remains to be seen.