the loopy lifetime of Kim Min-jae / Mondial 2022 / Gr. H / SOFOOT.com

It solely took 4 months to ascertain himself as probably the greatest defenders in Serie A. From Tongyeong to Naples by way of Beijing and Istanbul, Kim Min-jae has made his manner. At the moment, for his first World Cup, he is able to trip in Qatar. Portrait of a colossus accustomed to uncooked fish and the signal of the cross.

As he flew to Qatar, just a few days earlier than celebrating his twenty sixth birthday, Kim Min-jae might have remembered the day his story with the South Korean nationwide group started. It was ten years in the past. On the time, he had simply been referred to as up with the U17s of his nation. A summons to which he won’t go by aircraft, however in a tank truck crammed with contemporary fish and pushed by his patriarch Kim Tae-gyun, who drove almost seven hours on the freeway that day with a purpose to drop off his son. Regular, his mother and father on the time ran a small sushi restaurant in Tongyeong. A southern city well-known for its oysters and honey bread, and named the “Naples of South Korea” , as a result of we’d discuss louder there and we’d be extra messy than in the remainder of the nation. A premonitory nickname, because it was in Naples that Kim Min-jae landed this summer time, earlier than exploding within the eyes of Europe and turning into one of many two most anticipated South Koreans of this World Cup.

“Throughout his second season with Jeonbuk, individuals began considering: what if he was the subsequent nice South Korean defender? » Paul Neat

“He seems to be superhuman”

With two athletic mother and father — her dad was a judoka, her mother an athlete — there was no cause Kim Min-jae could not sweat from a younger age. Like his older brother, he began taking part in soccer in main faculty. The younger Kim already has the temperament of a warrior, to the purpose of arriving one high quality day in his brother’s class to redo the portrait of the comrades who victimize him. A brawler in school and at house, he’s additionally on the sphere, the place his degree of play opens the doorways to him at Suwon Technical Excessive Faculty, the place a sure Park Ji-Sung handed. Then, at simply 20 years outdated, six months after stopping his research for soccer, he joined Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, probably the greatest golf equipment within the nation. “When he arrived at Jeonbuk, his expertise was apparentrewinds Paul Neat, an English journalist who has been dwelling in South Korea for ten years. He had the identical fashion of play as now, all assured. »

He was then voted finest teenager within the championship, and his qualities got here to mild: velocity, ahead projection, anticipation and solidity. ” It is a freak 1.90 m for 85 kg, therefore his nickname “Monster”, provides Paul Neat. He’s so quick and highly effective that he appears superhuman. » So many qualities that open the doorways of the choice to him in 2017, which delights the inhabitants of Tongyeong, who hold banners bearing his effigy all through town. Alas, these identical doorways closed violently a yr later when he had to surrender the World Cup in Russia due to an damage. He’ll make up for it by profitable the Asian Video games just a few months later, which permits him to be exempted from full navy service.

“In coaching, he’s somebody who may appear lymphatic. He did not have to power himself to be on the degree in China. » Gilles Rousset

From China to the Bosphorus, even stronger

“Throughout his second season with Jeonbuk, individuals began considering: what if he was the subsequent nice South Korean defender?replays Neat. He was going to go away in a greater championship than the Ok-League, it was apparent. » Nonetheless, in January 2019, he made an astonishing alternative: to decide to Beijing Guoan, in China. For lack of European alternatives? Or for the cash? Paul Neat has his personal concept: “It was absolutely a monetary alternative. Even Kim Younger-gwon, his choice teammate, who had spent 5 years at Guangzhou Evergrande, suggested him in opposition to it. » Nonetheless, the participant will stay a yr and a half close to the Forbidden Metropolis, the place he rubs shoulders with Gilles Rousset, then assistant to Bruno Genesio. “In coaching, he’s somebody who may appear lymphatic. He did not have to power himself to be on the degree there, however I feel it did him a disservice, as a result of he fell asleep a bit. » Consequence: his Chinese language expertise is combined. On the one hand, good defensive performances and collective outcomes to match (2e then 3e of the championship). On the opposite, public criticism directed at his teammates on a neighborhood commentator’s stream. “Afterwards, the Covid arrived. He was pressured to go away Korea when his spouse was about to provide beginningsays Gilles Rousset. He suffered as a result of he didn’t see his daughter born. »

His daughter will hardly see Beijing, since in the summertime of 2021, Kim refuses a contract extension and leaves a Center Kingdom too small for him for a very long time. He stays in Asia, however is just a strait from the Bosphorus of the Previous Continent: in Fenerbahçe, he solely wants one season to justify his nickname of Monster. Marcel Tisserand, his teammate in central protection, can testify to this: “Cédric Bakambu, who had performed with him in China, informed me nothing however good issues about it. In Turkey, it was a brand new championship for him, he was a bit shy, however he expressed himself via his expertise.” . From January, his identify seems in switch rumors, particularly on the aspect of Vesuvius. Cristiano Giuntoli, the sporting director of Napoli, needs to signal him within the winter, however the membership lacks money. On the aspect of Istanbul, Kim confirms, and Tisserand feasts at his aspect: “He is a participant who goes quick, agile with each ft. He has only a few faults, other than typically being rushed into sure conditions, however that may include time. »

“In Turkey, it was a brand new championship for him, he was just a little shy, however he expressed himself via his expertise. » Marcel Tisserand

Like a (uncooked) fish in water

Current within the typical Süper Lig group, the colossus is rapidly cramped in Istanbul. “If he was Brazilian or French, little question many extra groups would have wished to signal him after his season at Fenerbahçeexplains Paul Neat. As he’s an Asian participant, the golf equipment hesitated. » Not Stade Rennes, educated by its former coach in Beijing, Bruno Genesio. An settlement appeared sealed this summer time, the Breton membership having even discovered a faculty for his daughter, however on the final second, the Korean circled and signed up with Napoli. A considerably unusual episode that raises some questions in regards to the participant’s actual will and the function of his brokers on this switch…

Be that as it might, his alternative has up to now paid off. As a result of within the Boot, the Monster walks on water: 20 matches performed in full out of 21 attainable in all competitions, 17 victories, a trophy for finest participant in Serie A in September, and defensive interventions to make all of the bomber jackets of Italy. Would you like extra ? The boy is the participant who makes essentially the most passes per recreation – the identical for these forwards – and ranks 2e in variety of headed duels received. Kalidou Koulibaly is already forgotten. In Naples, the colossus discovered a crampon at its foot, and Marcel Tisserand will not be stunned: “Turkey was not a championship that highlighted it sufficient. In Napoli, he has much more offensive freedom, and I’ve the impression that he is a bit more of a pacesetter, that he takes issues into his personal fingers just a little extra. »

“He is a really humorous boy, particularly since he is been studying Italian. Generally you hear him shout “Finito” or “Mamma mia”. » Juan Jesus

Based mostly in Posillipo, an upscale neighborhood in western Neapolitan, this biking fan has discovered an atmosphere in Naples that fits him completely, he the Catholic who sports activities an enormous tattoo of a biblical scene on his again, and on his chest, an extreme Carpe Diem. He additionally discovered a group to which he rapidly built-in, nicely helped by his hazing throughout which he sang the “Gangnam Fashion” and made all his teammates snigger. “He is a really humorous man, particularly since he is been studying Italianconfided Juan Jesus on the microphone of DAZN. Generally you hear him shout “Finito” or “Mamma mia”. He is a terrific man, but additionally a warrior who by no means provides up and is very nice. » So good that Kim apologized on Instagram after his solely lack of the season, a ball loss in opposition to Udinese. Come on, a tanker filled with contemporary fish introduced again to the coaching heart, and all might be forgiven.

By Léon Geoni and Maxime Renaudet
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