South Korea’s Kim Min-jae joined Bayern Munich in July after a profitable season with Napoli, the place he helped the membership win a primary Italian title since 1990. A standout defender in a league that has traditionally been seen as being house to the most effective defenders on the planet, Kim helps to alter perceptions about Asian centerbacks.
On September 7, there was a significant private achievement to go together with the workforce prize because the 26-year-old was nominated for the lads’s FIFA’s Ballon D’Or, the award given to the world participant of the 12 months. Additionally on the 30-man checklist are elite ahead gamers similar to Erling Haaland, Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi. It’s an esteemed firm to be a part of.
“It is an excellent honor for me,” Kim informed DW. “There are some huge names in there and it’s a privilege to be one of many names there. There aren’t many defenders nominated so, as a defender, it’s nice to be acknowledged.”
Breaking boundaries and stereotypes
He’s the primary Asian centerback to be nominated. Since Japan’s Yasuhiko Okudera joined Cologne in 1977 and Korea’s Cha Bum-kun gained the UEFA Cup with Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayer Leverkusen within the Nineteen Eighties, Asian gamers have turn out to be extra widespread sights in European soccer.
The exploits of Son Heung-min have helped. He grew to become a star at Hamburg after which Leverkusen earlier than becoming a member of Tottenham Hotspur in 2015 and changing into one of the vital widespread gamers within the English Premier League, the place he was joint high scorer in 2022.
Son is an thrilling attacking participant who scores and creates targets and helped change the notion of Asian gamers after quite a few quick full-backs and technical midfielders got here to Europe. Brighton and Hove Albion’s Japanese winger Kaoru Mitoma has additionally emerged as one of many stars of the Premier League.
Asia has by no means been recognized, nonetheless, for producing centerbacks, particularly these with the facility, energy and pace of Kim, who’s nicknamed “Monster” again in South Korea.
“European groups had been involved concerning the bodily measurement and energy of centerbacks in East Asia,” Sasi Kumar, a former Singapore worldwide defender at present primarily based in Madrid, informed DW. “With Kim, he isn’t solely huge and powerful however can play. He’ll begin doing now what Son did for attacking gamers. Individuals are going to look to Asia for centerbacks. He’s breaking boundaries. It’s a huge achievement for him and he ought to be happy with what he’s doing, not only for himself however for Asian soccer.”
Kim is a pioneer and extra can observe. “There have been some good gamers from Korea coming to Europe similar to Son, Cha Bum-keun and Park Ji-sung,” Kim stated. “There has, nonetheless, been an absence of Asian defenders prior to now who’ve come to Europe. I believe I’ve proved myself and I hope that I’ve opened the door for extra Asian defenders to return to Europe.”
That’s what Kumar expects to occur, with Kim not solely inspiring fellow Asian defenders to look to Europe however displaying European golf equipment that there’s a market within the east.
“The message that now comes from youth coaches on the huge European golf equipment is that good gamers can come from anyplace and the success of individuals like Kim helps reinforce that message,” stated Kumar, whose two sons play for Atletico Madrid’s youth workforce.
When it grew to become clear that Kim may go away Napoli after a season wherein the workforce dominated Italy’s high tier and in addition reached the final eight of the UEFA Champions League, there have been quite a few golf equipment similar to Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal within the English Premier League. He rapidly grew to become one of the vital sought-after gamers within the recreation.
“Kim does at the very least 20 unimaginable issues per recreation,” his former coach at Napoli Luciano Spalletti stated in March. “For me, he really is the most effective centerback on the planet. When he begins to run, he can get into the opposition penalty space in 5 seconds flat.”
Kim, who gained two league titles in Korea with Jeonbuk Motors earlier than heading to southern Italy by way of Beijing Guoan after which Fenerbahce of Istanbul, determined to signal for Bayern Munich. South Korean head coach and former Bayern manager Jurgen Klinsmann was delighted.
“I do not fear about Min-jae in any respect at Bayern Munich as a result of he is in a superb place,” stated Klinsmann, who additionally performed for Bayern throughout his soccer profession. “That is among the best groups on the planet. He is among the best defenders on the planet. He’ll do effectively at Bayern Munich. It is thrilling. I believe it is one thing to be very, very happy with.”
Regardless of such accolades, it’s extremely unlikely that Kim will win the Ballon D’Or. The final defender to take action was Fabio Cannavaro in 2006. Simply being on the checklist is sufficient however he desires to continue to grow as a participant to turn out to be the most effective he will be.
“I realized quite a bit in Italy underneath Spaletti,” Kim stated. “He’s tactically clever and he all the time needed us to be extra aggressive going ahead, whilst a defender.”
Now in Bavaria, he has an opportunity to turn out to be the primary Asian defender to win the UEFA Champions League, the largest prize in membership soccer.
“As defenders at Bayern Munich, we’ve got a job to help our implausible attacking gamers and we’re a workforce that likes to assault however a very powerful factor is to not be sleeping when there’s a defensive transition,” Kim stated. “These are points that I’m nonetheless studying in Europe and growing as a participant and I need to be pretty much as good as I will be.”
It appears as if there may be extra to return, which may solely be good for the popularity of Asian defenders.
Edited by: Matt Pearson