Kim Min-Jae And The Asian Goldmine

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors defender Kim Min-Jae has recently been linked with a move to Premier League side Watford – that got me thinking about the Asian market and the massive potential it has.

Football Twitter can be a very dangerous place when it comes to transfer rumours, but according to ‘Korea Football News‘ the interest has been confirmed by the club.

Jeonbuk Hyundai chief has confirmed that they received the offer for Kim Min-jae from Watford. (SPOTV News) #kleague

Korea Football News – January 19, 2019

That’s great, but who is this Kim Min-Jae guy?

Kim Min-Jae (김민재) is a 22 year old centre-back from Tongyeong. Nicknamed “Monster”, the towering 6’3″ (1.90m) defender has been playing for K-League side Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors since January 2017, winning the league in his first season and then again in his second. So, is this kid any good? Short answer: Yes, really good. Liverpool and Tottenham were interested in him back in 2018.

Kim in action against Kashiwa Reysol in the AFC Champions League (Source,
Han Myung-Gu/Getty Images AsiaPac)

It might sound silly, but one player I would compare him to would be Virgil van Dijk. Kim is strong, hence the nickname, good in the air, quick and cultured on the ball – he bloody loves a long ball and driving into midfield, like a certain Virgil van Dijk.

A move to Watford would make sense for both parties. Three of Watfords centre-backs are older than 30 and Christian Kabasele has the odd nightmare performance. An added bonus is that he won’t be too expensive, you’re probably looking at a fee somewhere between £7m and £15m.

The move would be good for Kim as well – there won’t be too much pressure on him, he could learn from experienced Premier League defenders and he will have a good manager in Javi Gracia.

It just makes sense.

Now that we’ve covered Kim, let’s talk about the (East) Asian game.

Asian footballers have been playing in Europe for decades. For example, a connection between Germany and Japan has existed for years. Names like Shinji Kagawa, Makoto Hasebe and Atsuto Uchida come to mind and then there’s Lukas Podolski going the other way. Of course, you have players from other Asian countries sprinkled all over Europe. South Korean Ki Sung-Yueng in Newcastle, West Brom’s Zhang Yuning from China and Cagliari’s North Korean sensation Han Kwang-Son to name just a few.

There is so much talent in Asia, it is like a goldmine, but it’s still relatively undiscovered. Big names like Son Heung-min and Shinji Kagawa, as well as the rise of the Chinese Super League, are starting to put Asian football on the map for European fans and scouts alike.

Leagues like the K-League, J-League and CSL need to make good use of this rise in popularity, make Asian football more accessible for European audiences and try to further youth development.

Here’s how you can watch East Asian football:

  • Chinese Super League – Eleven Sports
  • A-League (I know it’s not Asia) – BT Sport
  • J-League/K-League – find some dodgy stream
  • The AFC Asian Cup is currently happening as well

If my ramblings sparked your interest in the Asian game and you want to keep an eye on some (East) Asian (and Aussie) talent, here’s a list:

  • Obviously Kim Min-Jae (22, still at Jeonbuk Hyundai)
  • Zhang Yuning (22, West Brom, on loan at ADO Den Haag)
  • Han Kwang-Son (20, Cagliari, on loan at Perugia in Serie B)
  • Lee Jae-Sung (26, Holstein Kiel, signed from Jeonbuk in the summer)
  • Gen Shoji (26, Toulouse, recently signed from Kashima Antlers)
  • Yuma Suzuki (22, Kashima Antlers)
  • Daniel Arzani (20, Man City, on loan at Celtic)
  • Shoya Nakajima (24, Portimonense, linked with a move to Wolves)
  • Junya Ito (25, Kashiwa Reysol, linked with a move to the Bundesliga)
  • Ramy Najjarine (18, Melbourne City)
  • Anthony Lesiotis (18, Melbourne Victory)
  • Denis Genreau & Yuta Nakayama (19 & 21, both at PEC Zwolle)
Lee Jae-Sung getting stuck in against Hamburg in Bundesliga 2 (Source, Jan Huebner)

Lastly, if you want to get involved, then I’d recommend following these Twitter accounts:

Get involved and spread the word, Asian football is awesome!


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