Scouting Report: Is Borussia Dortmund Player Dong-Won Ji Useless?

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentJanuary 17, 2014

HULL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 02:  Ji Dong-won (R) of Sunderland underatkes a late fitness test ahead of the Barclays Premier League match between Hull City and Sunderland at KC Stadium on November 2, 2013 in Hull, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Borussia Dortmund have announced the signing of Dong-Won Ji (as per, so here is a scouting report on the 22-year-old South Korean international.

Is he a useless signing? Not according to Dortmund management. 

"Dong-Won Ji is a player who can play in a variety of positions in attack," Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc said, as per "We are pleased to have signed this talented player for next season on a free transfer."


Sunderland Failure

BOLTON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 22:  Dong-Won Ji of Sunderland takes a drink on the bench during the Barclays Premier League match between Bolton Wanderers and Sunderland at Reebok Stadium on October 22, 2011 in Bolton, England.  (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty
Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

In 24 Premier League games, Ji scored two goals and registered two assists—he was as incompetent as Lee Dong-Gook was for Middlesbrough. 

Whenever Ji played for Sunderland, there was a lack of urgency in his play, he was flat-footed, his shooting was wasteful (two goals from 18 league shots) and he was unwilling to get stuck in (he averaged 0.4 tackles per league game). 

He made his Premier League debut in a 2-1 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers during the 2011-12 Premier League season.

He completed just 26 passes in 70 minutes.

To give you an idea how much of a non-factor he was, Sunderland goalkeeper Keiren Westwood made more passes (30) than Ji.

In Ji's second league start, a 2-1 defeat to Fulham, he did create a goal but was a passenger again. In 60 minutes of play, he did not register a single shot on goal. 

A season later, half of it spent on loan at Augsburg, he was given his third Premier League start under then Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio against Crystal Palace.

One play will forever be synonymous with Ji.

He is 6'2". The ball was on course to meet his head, and all he needed to do was direct it towards goal. 

What did Ji do? He ducked.

Yes, he ducked as if the ball was a bullet.

Talk about stranger than fiction. 

Di Canio shamed Ji.

"I cannot change the heart of my players," Di Canio said, as per Neil McLeman at The Mirror. "One time we did a delivery very well and Ji didn't push his head forward. I am more disappointed than him."

In what turned out to be Ji's last-ever start for Sunderland against Aston Villa, he tried hard, but there was again no end product. 

He attempted four shots: Three were blocked and the one shot that was not rejected did not even test Villa keeper Brad Guzan.

Source: FourFourTwo Stats Zone

While Ji's compatriot Ki Sung-Yueng is relishing the relegation-battle stress, Ji has wilted.

Three former Sunderland managers (Steve Bruce, Martin O'Neill, Di Canio) and the current manager Gus Poyet did not view Ji as a Premier League-standard forward.

He has no one to blame but himself. 


What Were Sunderland Management Thinking?

In the past summer transfer window, Borussia Dortmund made a £5 million bid for Ji only for Di Canio to voice his objection to selling the South Korean, as per BBC Sport

To put the deal in statistical terms at the time: two goals and two assists in 19 Premier League games.

Take the £5 million and run.  

Instead, Sunderland have been forced to sell Ji to Augsburg for an "undisclosed fee", presumably a derisive one since Augsburg do not have a big budget.

Once Ji's six-month contract with Augsburg expires, he will move to Dortmund on a free transfer.

This is what you call wheeling and dealing from Dortmund sporting director Zorc. 


Why Dortmund Rate Ji

Last season on loan at Augsburg, Ji played with a smile on his face (credit to his then club teammate Ja-Cheol Koo), he showed his class and was at his best in a free-roaming deep-lying forward position. 

Source: Kicker

Ji scored five Bundesliga goals and helped Augsburg stay in the top flight. 

You can understand why Dortmund rate him.

Ji's preferred finishing foot is his right as was evident when he evaded Hoffenheim centre-back Jannik Vestergaard and acrobatically guided the ball past then Hoffenheim goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes.

Source: Bundesliga

Unlike most players, Ji is not limited to one foot. This two-footedness is an advantage that makes him difficult to defend against.

In a 3-1 win over Greuther Furth, he sold centre-back Lasse Sobiech a fake to the right, veered to the left and slotted the ball past goalkeeper Wolfgang Hesl with a left-footed shot.

Source: Bundesliga

In a 2-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt, Ji expertly placed the ball to the bottom right corner with a left-footed shot past then Eintracht keeper Oka Nikolov.

Source: Bundesliga

Where was this version of Ji in the Premier League?

Well, Diego Forlan was a transfer bust at Manchester United and went on to win two Pichichi Trophies, two European Golden Shoes and the 2010 FIFA World Cup Golden Ball.

Borja Valero went through the motions at West Bromwich Albion, which made a terrible first impression on Premier League supporters.

He returned to La Liga with Mallorca, won the 2009-10 Don Balon award for best Spanish footballer, became a cog in Villarreal's midfield and now as a Fiorentina player is equal-first for most Serie A assists this season.

Lennart Preiss/Associated Press

Not every talented player will fit the Premier League, and this is the case with Ji.

He will enjoy a short but sweet return to Augsburg. 

Assuming the Augsburg Ji not the Sunderland Ji shows up for Dortmund next season, Ji will be a handy impact sub at one of Europe's biggest clubs. 



Statistics via WhoScoredFFT Stats ZoneSquawka and Transfermarkt.