SUNDERLAND have turned down offers from abroad for Ji Dong-won and insists he still has a part to play at the club, despite the striker being used sparingly in his debut Premier League campaign.
The 20-year-old – a full South Korean international and one of his country’s hottest properties – has started only one game this season, the match at Wolves last month when former assistant manager Eric Black selected the Asian in what was the Scot’s only game in charge.
Newly-appointed boss Martin O’Neill , pictured, watched that game from the stands and has subsequently opted against starting the South Korean, despite injuries to fellow forwards Nicklas Bendtner and Connor Wickham, which have ruled them out of several games.
The manager has brought on Ji as substitute in four of his eight games in charge, however, and is interested enough in the striker’s potential to fend off approaches from overseas.
He told the Echo: “We’ve had a few phone calls from clubs abroad that would like to take Ji on loan, but we’ve knocked them back.
“The fact is, we can’t afford to lose any of our squad at the moment, but besides that, Ji is a player who has done well for us.
“The lad has talent, but he’s just come over here and is still learning the game. We want to see how he progresses and develops.
“Apart from that, he’s just scored one of the most important goals that I can remember – that amazing last-minute winner against Man City and making himself an instant hero in the eyes of the fans – and myself – in the process.”