FC Barcelona has witnessed a lot of stealing done from the club’s backyard. La Masia’s pearls have been lured to other countries, with the club simply unable to do anything about it. In the past summer they witnessed three of these cases, with Josimar (Chelsea), Pleguezuelo (Arsenal) and Canós (Liverpool), all opting for the big money of the Premier League. However, this time around, the club has succeeded in tying down one of the biggest assets of the youth system, Seung Woo Lee. This must be considered as a victory for the club, as Lee had the freedom to choose whichever team he wanted for his first professional contract, just like all other canteranos who are not 18 yet, due to Spanish laws.
The South Korean had offers from both Liverpool and Chelsea, which would have secured him a contract which would see his salary increase four-fold. Therefore, the motives for Seung Woo Lee’s stay at the club are purely footballing. Barça made his family feel so sure about their choice that the whole Lee family is moving to Barcelona. The family is expected to settle in at Ciudad Condal, while Seung Woo’s younger brother, Seung Lun, will move into the youth ranks of fellow Catalan club Cornellà. The club will pay for the family’s basic expenses, including flights and rent.
The deal that is to be sealed by the players’ agents, Pere Guardiola and Pau Clavero, is quite complicated. It actually includes two contracts in one, as it lays down the details for the player’s time with both the Juvenil A and Barça B. The contract will be valid for the remainder of this season, as well as for the next three, with the club maintaining the option of extending it unilaterally for one or two more seasons. The player will receive the standard salary for a Juvenil A player, a figure that will increase automatically once he’s promoted to Barça B. A similar thing will happen to his release clause, which is set to €3 million, with a potential to rise to €12 million.
For the moment though, Barcelona are only able to count on Lee and other Asians for friendly tournaments, as a result of a bizarre ruling by FIFA. The player has been under this status also during his time with the Cadete A and Juvenil B teams, and will not be able to play in official matches until he turns 18 in January 2016.
For Barça, there is no time for celebrating though. Contract signing talks are urgent with some other players of the same age group too. Carles Aleñà, will sign once his father, Francesc Aleñà is back from a business trip. The main issues to resolve now are, beyond doubt, those of Ayoub Abou and Carles Pérez.