South Korean star Ahn Jung-Hwan has snubbed Spanish club Racing Santander after being tempted by a lucrative cash carrot from Serie A outfit Perugia.
Reports from Spain last week said that Ahn had signed for Santander in a one-year loan deal.
But the 24-year-old attacking midfielder has turned his back on the Primera Liga side after a better offer from Perugia.
"I've given it some serious thought, and I've decided that my future lies in Italy. Perugia were offering a better deal and so I thought it best to move there," the Pusan Icons player said at a press conference.
"I'm very excited about the opportunity to play in Europe," he added.
Perugia officials are confident Ahn will be able to make the step up from Korean club football to one of Europe's strongest leagues.
"We think that this player has the qualities necessary to adapt to our football," declared director Alessandro Gaucci, the son of president Luciano.
Ahn has signed a loan agreement and will be officially presented at a press conference on Saturday before joining the club for pre-season training next week.
The Santander deal foundered after the Spanish club insisted on a compensation clause, seeking payment if Ahn was called up for military service during his time at the club.
Perugia did not insist on a similar clause, officials from Pusan Icons said here Wednesday.
The Italians are also offering a better package --- $450,000 a season compared to Santander's $260,000 a year.
Completion of the deal will make Ahn the first South Korean to play in Italy.
Perugia will be hoping Ahn can follow in the successful footsteps of an earlier famous Asian signing, Japanese midfield playmaker Hidetoshi Nakata.
Nakata was signed as a relative unknown after a series of assured performances for Japan during the 1998 World Cup. The signing proved to be inspired -- Nakata was sold to Roma for a handsome profit earlier this year.
While Nakata has proved a success in Italy, only a handful of South Korean players have managed to break into European football before.
French side Strasbourg signed Seo Jung-Won for a season two years ago, but the striker is now back in Korea.
South Korea's most famous export is the legendary Cha Bum-Kun, who enjoyed successful spells with Bundesliga outfits Bayer Leverkusen and Eintracht Frankfurt during the 1980s - (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)