The latest in a long line of players who has switched Salzburg for Leipzig, Hwang Hee-chan will be expected to partially make up for the departure of star striker Timo Werner.
bundesliga.com has the lowdown on the versatile attacker who already has an impressive medal haul from his time in Austria…
Club: RB Leipzig
Country: South Korea (32 caps/4 goals)
Brought up near the South Korean capital Seoul, Hwang was a prolific scorer at youth level with his first club Pohang Steelers and for his country. That caught the attention of Salzburg, and – at 18 years of age – Hwang signed for the Austrian champions in January 2015. Then sporting director with Salzburg – before serving in both the same role and as head coach at Leipzig – Ralf Rangnick described the new recruit as "one of the biggest up-and-coming talents in South Korea." Rangnick said Hwang had exactly the type of skills needed for Salzburg's high-pressing, aggressive and attractive style, although he was initially deployed in the second tier with feeder club FC Liefering.
The 5'10" forward soon showed why there had been international competition for his signature, netting 11 goals in 18 league matches during his first full season with Liefering. He made his Salzburg debut in December 2015, before scoring twice on his second league start for the club in October 2016. A few days after those first goals for Salzburg, Hwang proved he could do it in Europe as well. He came off the bench to net twice in as many minutes and give his side a 2-0 UEFA Europa League win at Nice in November 2016.
After finishing his maiden top-flight campaign with 12 league goals, Hwang was part of the Salzburg side – along with new Leipzig teammates Amadou Haidara and Hannes Wolf – that got past Borussia Dortmund to reach the 2017/18 Europa League semi-finals. Under the watchful guidance of current Borussia Mönchengladbach boss Marco Rose – and with Wolfsburg's Xaver Schlager and Hoffenheim's Munas Dabbur in their team – the Austrians suffered an agonising extra-time defeat to Marseille.
Hwang scored twice in 20 appearances on loan at Hamburg during an injury-hit spell in Bundesliga 2 during the 2018/19 campaign. The 24-year-old bounced back in Austria, though, and got 16 goals and 21 assists in 38 matches in all competitions in 2019/20 as Salzburg romped to a league and cup double. Now a four-time Austrian champion, Hwang also impressed in Europe – scoring three goals, making three more and winning two penalties in the UEFA Champions League group stage as his side – with future Dortmund star Erling Haaland in their ranks – gave Liverpool and Napoli a real scare. Hwang left Salzburg after registering 45 goals and 28 assists in 124 matches.
Plays a bit like: Roberto Firmino
Haaland dominated the headlines with a hat-trick in Salzburg's first Champions League group stage match in 2019/20, but Hwang played his part with a goal and an assist in that 6-2 win over Genk. The South Korean took centre stage next time, however, starting the comeback from 3-0 down against Liverpool at Anfield before his team eventually lost a thrilling match 4-3.
Salzburg's No.9 rocked the reigning European champions by using his left foot to dummy a shot and bamboozle UEFA Player of the Year Virgil van Dijk before smashing home right-footed for a brilliant goal. A great left-footed cross for Takumi Minamino's goal in that game also showcased Hwang's dexterity and flexibility.
In that sense, Hwang is not dissimilar to Liverpool's former Hoffenheim striker Firmino. Happy leading the line as part of either a duo or a front three, Leipzig's first summer signing likes to get on the ball and has a trick or two up his sleeve to shake off a defender. Comfortable with both feet, with the strength to hold off an opponent and the pace to exploit space, he could cause problems for many a Bundesliga defence – just like Brazil international Firmino did before him. Hwang inevitably draws comparisons, meanwhile, with his international teammate Son Heung-min, who starred for Hamburg and Bayer Leverkusen between 2010 and 2015 before moving to Tottenham Hotspur.
Did you know?
Hwang has already thrived against some of the Bundesliga's best defenders. At the Rio Olympics in August 2016, he scored the opener and set up another goal in South Korea's 3-3 group-stage draw with eventual silver medallists Germany. New Leipzig teammate Lukas Klostermann, Bayern Munich centre-back Niklas Süle and Gladbach's Matthias Ginter were all on defensive duty for Germany that day.
Hwang also got one over on Süle and Germany two years later, coming on as a second-half substitute to help his country win 2-0 in a memorable 2018 FIFA World Cup group-stage encounter in Russia.
What they're saying
"Absolutely crazy – he was brilliant today. He's so important to the team." - Then Salzburg teammate Erling Haaland's verdict on his strike partner's eye-catching display in their Champions League thriller against Liverpool at Anfield in October 2019.
“He's exceptional, has a brutal dynamism. I've rarely seen anything like it." - Former Liefering and Salzburg head coach Peter Zeidler.
"In Hee-chan Hwang we have signed a player who fits the profile of what we are looking for. He can play in any attacking position, on the wings or as a main man in the middle. He makes our attack more flexible with his speed and mobility. He had a great season in Austria, as both a goalscorer and provider, and he particularly impressed in the Champions League." - RB Leipzig sporting director Markus Krösche.
"The club's aims and style of football are both perfect for me. I want to take my next step as a professional here in Leipzig. On top of that, I want to score as many goals as possible." - Leipzig's new No.11 Hwang after signing a five-year deal with the Bundesliga club.