The long-rumored signing of former South Korean international Lee Young-Pyo was finally made official by the Vancouver Whitecaps on Tuesday.
A week of reports from around the globe culminated on Sunday with photos of Lee’s arrival into Vancouver’s airport. That was followed on Monday night by an announcement from the 34-year-old player via Twitter, followed by Tuesday’s confirmation from the club.
“Lee is a quality individual and leader — both on and off the pitch — that has excelled at all levels of the game and we are thrilled he will be joining our club," said Whitecaps FC new head coach Martin Rennie in a statement.
All the buzz is explained by the high profile career Lee has enjoyed on the global soccer stage. In addition to playing for storied clubs like PSV Eindhoven (from 2002 to ’05), Tottenham Hotspur (2005-08) and Borussia Dortmund (2008-09), Lee has represented South Korea in three World Cups (2002, ’06, ’10), an Olympics (2000), a FIFA Confederations Cup (2001) and even a CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2002.
In total, the new Whitecaps defender ranks third all-time with 127 caps since debuting for South Korea in 1999. He retired from the international game in January following the conclusion of the Asian Cup.
"I am very thankful for my experiences as a professional soccer player in Asia and Europe and now I look forward to this new opportunity in Vancouver," said Lee in a club statement. “Soccer in North America is growing and Major League Soccer has become a highly respected league in the world game. I am excited to begin this new chapter of my career with Whitecaps FC and to make Vancouver my new home."
Lee most recently played for Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal, who wrapped up their season this past summer.
The club did not disclose details of the contract, but reports indicated that Lee is on a one-year deal with an option for a second.
Although he has played mainly at left back during most of his career, Rennie already has penciled Lee in at right back for the upcoming season.
"He has played midfield, as well as fullback during his distinguished career and the addition of Lee as a right back to our side will help strengthen our defensive backline," Rennie said.
"I've been impressed with the professionalism of the club and how it is run," Lee told reporters before the announcement. "From next year, I will do my best to help my new team get some good results."