Whitecaps sell South Korean midfielder Inbeom Hwang to FC Rubin Kazan

The Vancouver Whitecaps say it will take some time to get a replacement for Inbeom Hwang after selling the South Korean international midfielder to Russia's FC Rubin Kazan.

Getting players into the country during the pandemic is not easy, said Axel Schuster, the Whitecaps CEO and sporting director. He estimated it would take eight to 10 weeks for an international player to get a visa and satisfy quarantine and other guidelines.

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"Yes, we are following all markets and yes, we will find a good solution," Schuster, a German native, told reporters. "But we all have to know that this solution will not help us within the next weeks."

The Whitecaps are looking for a more attacking midfielder in a transfer market Schuster describes as "interesting."

Schuster said the transfer came at the behest of Hwang, who signed a three-year deal with the Russian team. The 23-year-old Korean had made it clear he wanted to play in Europe.

"Our position was always the same," Schuster said. "We had 2 1/2 years of contact (remaining). We are open to do it if we get a remarkable profit out of that business, because it has to make sense for us to let him go in the middle of the season, in the middle of a very special (pandemic) scenario."

Schuster said the team received three official offers for the South Korean. The Whitecaps will retain a percentage of any future transfer fees.

Hwang came to Vancouver as a young designated player in January 2019 on a two-year contract with two option years. Hwang made US$650,000 last season, fifth highest on the Whitecaps roster, although as a young DP his salary budget charge was just $200,000 last year.

Schuster said Hwang had graduated to full DP status this year and that salary was not a factor in the transfer. Vancouver's other designated players are Iraqi fullback Ali Adnan and Canadian striker Lucas Cavallini.

Acquired from his hometown club Daejeon Citizen FC, Hwang made 41 appearances for Vancouver with four goals and six assists across all competitions.

"I am very grateful to everyone at the club for their support and professionalism both on and off the pitch," Hwang said in a statement. "I am disappointed that I am leaving this team without getting the results we wanted. I have grown as a person and player during my time in Vancouver and have made lifelong friends.

"I have always been very open about my dream to play in Europe and when this opportunity presented itself, I shared my desire to take on this new challenge."

The Russian Premier League kicked off the 2020-21 season last weekend. Rubin Kazan is playing under Russian national team coach Leonid Slutsky, who was put in charge of the club in December.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 14, 2020.

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