It took a little while for Ki Sung-yueng to make his first team breakthrough at Newcastle United, but the midfielder is now looking like one of the bargains of the season for the club.
After all, there is nothing better than getting something for free, and that’s what Newcastle achieved when they signed the South Korean following the expiration of his Swansea City contract.
In recent weeks the 29-year-old has taken a commanding role in the middle of the Magpies midfield, making the club’s supporters openly ponder ‘Jonjo who?’
In all seriousness, Jonjo Shelvey will probably be granted an immediate return to the starting line up once he’s back to full fitness, but there is no way that Ki should make way for him – if anything it should be Senegal star Mohamed Diame who drops out.
Ki just seems to be a good fit for Newcastle, and it’s stunning to think that the club picked him up for free. His calming presence in the middle of the park makes all the difference for the team and manager Rafael Benitez must be thrilled with his efforts.
There are none of Shelvey’s Hollywood style passes from Ki – although those are fine in the right situation – but rather a simple and measured approach to his distribution. He picks the ball up, assesses his options and almost always picks the right one.
The Premier League is arguably the fastest and most furious league in the world, and so any player who can slow the play down is someone who must be treasured.
Ki’s impact in the last three games has been immeasurable, and it’s no coincidence that his presence in the team has coincided with the Magpies winning all of those encounters.
Again, Newcastle signed the South Korean international for free – zero, zip, zilch.
Is there a better bargain than that in the Premier League? Liverpool fans will point to Xherdan Shaqiri, while Ki has competition from within his own city in the form of defender Federico Fernandez, but Ki’s lack of transfer fee might give him the edge.
Ultimately, Benitez and the Magpies hierarchy can look at the signing as a job well done. This is an example of when the club’s penny-pinching approach actually pays dividends.
The real conundrum for the manager is now who does he drop if he chooses to recall Shelvey against West Ham United on Saturday? The answer, without doubt, should not be Ki.