KEY POINTS

  • Lee Seung-woo was once touted as the "Korean Lionel Messi"
  • Lee shined as part of the Barcelona youth team
  • Many believe that Lee can still redeem himself

One of Barcelona’s most promising youth team stars from the past could be on his way back to the top.

Several years ago, the Barcelona youth team was dazzled by the emergence of Lee Seung-woo, the club’s former midfielder once regarded as the “Korean Lionel Messi.”

Lee joined the famous Barcelona Academy, also known as “La Masia” at age 12. Alongside his compatriot Paik Seung-ho, the pair quickly gained popularity in the sport.

Unlike other Barca rising stars who were also likened to the Barcelona captain, Lee has shown that he could possibly be even better than Messi at the time, having broken a couple of the Argentine’s youth goalscoring records.

The hype reached its crescendo at the 2014 Under-16 Asian Championships in Thailand. Lee played the best games of his career, finishing the tournament as the top scorer and MVP.

However, due to his “brash attitude," the South Korean phenom’s fairytale story eventually came to an end.

After all, Lee still managed to secure major deals and is now playing for Portimonense S.C. at the Primeira Liga in Portugal.

Though it was widely known that Lee has lost his chance to become Barcelona’s superstar because of his attitude, a report published by The Korea Times suggested that there were also other underlying factors that contributed to the impediment of the youngster’s rise to stardom.

“One problem was that Barcelona's two-year ban on registering new players in 2014, due to a breach of international transfer regulations protecting young talent, meant that valuable time was lost. By the time the youngsters were 18 and ready to play again, the first team seemed farther away than ever,” the article wrote.

Nevertheless, the report also noted that “with Lee's career on something of a downward trajectory, a reset may be the best idea going forward.”

Lee Seung-Woo Lee Seung-woo is a South Korean soccer player who was dubbed as the "Korean Lionel Messi" during his time at the famed La Masia. Photo: Getty Images / Manuel Queimadelos Alonso

As for the 23-year-old, his dream of rejoining Barcelona is still there.

In December, Lee opened up about his career and bared that after all said and done, he is still trying to do his best to become a better player and hopefully put Asian players on the map someday.

“As a player representing Korea in a European league, I try to work harder and do better compared to others. I try to do better in every game because of my responsibility as a Korean player here,” Lee told the Post.

“These aspects have put more responsibility on me and I feel like me succeeding as a player also gives more opportunities to future Korean and Asian players. This motivates me to work even harder,” he added.