Football: S. Korean playmaker Lee Kang-in joins Mallorca after Valencia release

Valencia announced Lee Kang-in's departure with a brief statement on their website on Aug 29.
Valencia announced Lee Kang-in's departure with a brief statement on their website on Aug 29.PHOTO: REUTERS

MADRID (REUTERS) - Real Mallorca on Monday (Aug 30) confirmed that South Korean international Lee Kang-in had joined the Spanish La Liga club on a free transfer.

The 20-year-old, who was released by Valencia on Sunday, has signed a four-year deal with the Balearic Islands side.

The midfielder joined the Valencia academy aged 10, making his first-team debut aged 17 in the 2018-19 season. He went on to make 51 appearances at the  Mestalla, scoring three times.

Mallorca, who were promoted from the Segunda last season, have started the La Liga season in fine fettle, securing seven points from their opening three games, including a 1-0 win over Espanyol last Friday.

The South Korean prodigy's exit from Valencia brings an end to the highly rated playmaker's 10-year association with the club.

Valencia, owned by Singaporean business magnate Peter Lim, had once thought so highly of the young Korean talent that they inserted a reported €80 million (S$127 million) buyout clause in his contract.

On Sunday, however, the La Liga team announced Lee's departure with just a brief statement on their website.

"Valencia CF announces that they have terminated their contractual relationship with Kang-in Lee," it said.

"The South Korean player arrived at the VCF Academy at the age of 10 and this concludes his stint as a player at our club.

"Valencia CF wishes him luck for his future."

South Korea also had high hopes for Lee, viewing him as the potential successor to Tottenham Hotspur's Son Heung-min, but while he scored three goals with the Olympic side in Tokyo he was left out of the national squad for upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Iraq and Lebanon.

Lee, the golden ball winner at the 2019 U-20 World Cup and Asian Young Player of the Year the same year, started 14 times last season as Valencia finished 13th but has not featured in the squad at all this season.

Despite the shock departure, Lee thanked the club for giving him the opportunity to play in Europe.

"My family and I left home and came to Spain in 2011 to pursue my dream of being a professional soccer player," he wrote on social media.

"Valencia CF is the team that opened the door to that dream for me and supported me. That's been the precious value that I cannot forget, even this moment as I leave this team.

"With this team, I grew not only as a player but as a human being. What I learnt at the Valencia CF academy will be the motor that will guide my future on the right path."

Lee had also been linked with several clubs in England ahead of the closing of the European transfer window on Tuesday night (6am on Wednesday, Singapore time).