JI DONG-WON does not want to come back to Sunderland – and is on the verge of a big-money move to the Bundesliga.
The South Korean international spent the second half of last season on loan to German side Augsburg after failing to make a single first-team appearance for Sunderland in the opening half of the campaign.
And the 22-year-old striker now wants to make the switch to the continent permanent, with Sunderland set to grant him his wish and get an unexpected windfall in the process.
The Black Cats signed Ji from Chunnam Dragons in June 2011 for £2m but despite his failure to flourish in the Premier League, Sunderland look ready to make at least double that fee and possibly more when he leaves.
The Sunderland misfit has established a good reputation in Germany on the back of helping Augsburg engineer an escape from relegation which looked unlikely when he arrived in January with the club propping up the league.
Augsburg won seven and drew three of the 17 games he played in, and that was enough to lift them out of the drop zone. He scored five goals during that spell with his side winning every game in which he found the back of the net.
That has led Augsburg to look into the prospect of signing the Asian forward permanently.
But they have already admitted that his market value has risen and they are unlikely to be able to afford him.
A host of German clubs have now expressed an interest in a forward who made only two Premier League starts for Sunderland and 17 substitute appearances since moving to Wearside two years ago.
And involved in the chase, in what will be a surprise to many Sunderland fans, is believed to be leading German side Borussia Dortmund – runners up in the Bundesliga and Champions League finalists.
Ji believes his career derailed at Sunderland and is now getting back on track.
But rather than looking at giving the South Korean another chance next season, the Black Cats will be happy to cash in on a player who scored an incredibly memorable late goal for Sunderland to beat Manchester City 1-0 on New Year’s Day last year, but achieved precious little else.
Dong-won signed a three-year deal with Sunderland on the back of notching six goals in 11 international appearances, including four at the 2011 Asian Cup.
But now that he is coming to the final year of his contract – like Sunderland team-mate David Vaughan – Sunderland have to make a decision on the player.
A new contract for such a marginal player at Sunderland is a non-starter, and while they would be entitled to compensation should he allow his contract to run down – a free transfer only applies to players under 24 years of age – it would be pennies compared to what the club could get this summer.