JI DONG-WON’S loan switch to German outfit Augsburg could prove “pivotal” to the Sunderland striker’s development, according to Black Cats boss Martin O’Neill.
The South Korean hitman, who has not made a first-team appearance for Sunderland this season, sealed his move to the Bundesliga this week when he joined second bottom Augsburg until the end of the season.
Ji rejected the chance to re-sign for former club Chunnam Dragons after the Korean outfit submitted an offer worth around £1million to take the 21-year-old back to the K-League.
The striker is keen to prove himself in European football and should he impress for Augsburg, then there could be opportunity for a permanent switch to Bavaria after he has struggled to cope with the physical demands of the Premier League.
Sunderland boss O’Neill believes the loan switch will prove beneficial for Ji and he can use the stint in Germany to prove his credentials.
O’Neill said: “I think in terms of his development, the next four or five months are pretty pivotal. It’s an opportunity for him.
“I think he was a little bit down, but this has given him a new lease of life.
“He’s only young and he has been away from home 18 months but, in fairness, this is what he wanted to do.
“There was an offer in from a club in Korea but he wanted to try to stay in Europe.
“He’s had a couple of niggling injuries that he is now over, but he felt his chances here were somewhat limited.”
Ji was signed by former Sunderland boss Steve Bruce for £2m in the summer of 2011 after impressing for the South Korean national side.
But just two of his 19 appearances last season came in the starting line-up and he only found the net twice - the memorable last-gasp winner against Manchester City and a consolation goal in the Stadium of Light defeat to Chelsea.