INCHEON -- South Korean midfielder Ki Sung-yueng said Tuesday he is eager to have an injury-free season with his English Premier League club and earn good results with the national team.
Ki, who is with Swansea City, said he will focus on rehabbing his right knee before the new EPL season kicks off next month. The 28-year-old went under the knife after South Korea's World Cup qualifier against Qatar last month. He removed inflammation in the knee and took a rest during his stay in his homeland.
"I don't know when I will start training with Swansea, but I'm getting better," Ki said to reporters at Incheon International Airport before departing for London. "I wasn't comfortable with my knee before, and it actually feels good to have surgery."
Ki was left out from Swansea's preseason tour in the United States this month due to the injury. He featured in 23 league matches for the Swans last season but had no goals, and was sidelined for weeks due to toe and knee injuries.
The former Celtic and Sunderland man is also certain to miss the start of their EPL campaign. Ki, however, said he won't rush to play on the pitch again.
"It's important for me to make my body perfectly fit," he said. "If I can be healthy again, I know I can have a good game."
Swansea, finishing 15th last season, will open their new EPL season with Southampton on Aug. 12. Ki said he expects the team to have a better season with manager Paul Clement, who joined the Swans in January.
"We had a difficult time last season but got better with the arrival of the new coach," he said. "This season will be our first full season with Clement, so we'll show a better performance."
|South Korean midfielder Ki Sung-yueng speaks to reporters at Incheon International Airport in Incheon on July 25, 2017. (Yonhap)|
"My priority at this moment is to get healthy again," he said. "I still have a year left to my contract, and I have to talk with my club about the transfer."
Before thinking about his future with Swansea, Ki has an important national team duty, which is to help South Korea qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
In the final Asian qualifying round for the 2018 World Cup, South Korea are barely holding on to the final automatic qualification spot with only two matches remaining. The Taeguk Warriors are stuck at 13 points with four wins, a draw and three losses, sitting in second place in Group A and just one point above Uzbekistan.
In Asia, the top two teams from Groups A and B will advance directly to the World Cup in Russia. The two third-place teams must go through a playoffs for their final chance.
It's still unclear whether Ki will be able to play for South Korea next month, given his injury status. South Korea will host Iran on Aug. 31 and face Uzbekistan on the road five days later.
Ki, who has captained the national team, said it's important to have a fresh start with new head coach Shin Tae-yong, who was appointed earlier this month after Uli Stielike was sacked.
"When you are a footballer, you meet various coaches, and there are sad things, but that's football," he said. "Under a new head coach, we know people expect different things."
Shin was previously an assistant to Stielike, and Ki said since the players are familiar with the new head coach, the national team will deliver good results.
"The head coach knows the players well, and some of us already played matches under his guidance," he said. "When there's a coaching change, the team atmosphere also changes. We will play a better game." (Yonhap)