The man who almost ended up in Lancashire still seeking England moveNorth Korea striker Jong Tae-se underwent a secret trial with Premier League outfit Blackburn Rovers last season, Goal.com can reveal.
The powerful forward provided much of the thrust of the North Korean attack in their creditable 2-1 defeat to Brazil at the World Cup on Tuesday evening.
The 26-year-old, whose tears during the DPRK's national anthem got proceedings off to an emotional start ahead of the game against the Brazilians, enjoyed the trial in Lancashire but did not succeed in winning himself a contract at Ewood Park.
The forward enjoyed working with Sam Allardyce though and struck up something of a rapport with Croatian striker Nikola Kalinic.
The trial, which lasted from January 31 until February 8 this year, was kept under wraps.
The striker, born in Japan of a North Korean mother and a Japanese-born Korean father, was educated in the pro-North environment of Japan's Korean community.
He has insisted publicly in the past that he is a North Korean in order to fend off accusations that he actually origincated from South Korea.
He still lives in Japan and plays for the Kawasaki Frontale club in the J-League.
"I was born as a North Korean and went to a North Korean school just like many people in Japan do and many of my friends did. My mother is from North Korea. My father was brought up in Japan and went to a Japanese school but despite that he thought of himself as North Korean and I do, too," he told The Guardian recently.
However, the Tupac-loving star has no doubt about where he'd like his career to end up in the future, whilst he already has something of an attachment, perhaps surprisingly, to Rovers.
"I want to score a goal a game at the World Cup, one goal a game, that is my target," he added.
"[And then] I want to play in England.
"When I was at high school, Italy's Serie A was the most popular league but with the help of cable television, I started watching English football and I really enjoyed the stadiums, the atmosphere and the passion. Years ago, I used to train wearing a Blackburn Rovers shirt."
"In Japan, there were not many people wearing Blackburn shirts. I just went to the shop and bought one because I liked it."
Jong netted two impressive strikes against Greece in the North Korean's warm-up games ahead of this summer's tournament.