Footballers from the Far East have a knack of going under the radar of European football fans until they arrive on the continent and burst onto the scene.
However, Kim Min-jae has been on the radar of European scouts for a little while now after impressing in the K League 1, and more recently the Chinese Super League, with the likes of Tottenham, Chelsea, Southampton, PSV and RB Leipzig said to be interested.
Not heard of him? Well fear not, because in the likely event that he signs for a club in England, you’ll be able to wow your friends with your in-depth knowledge of the next big thing to come from South Korea.
Born in Tongyeong, South Korea, Kim is the son of two professional athletes. In his youth, he attended several schools in Gyongman province which are famed for their development of athletes, including Suwon Technical High School which has produced several international footballers.
Among their alumni are Kim Sun-min and a certain Park Ji-sung. Impressive stuff.
Kim rose quickly through the ranks of Korean football, signing for Gyeongju KHNP straight from university in the third tier, before moving to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors six months later. While there, he won the K League 1 title twice, being named Young Player of the Year in his debut campaign and in the Team of the Season on both occasions.
It was this kind of form that prompted Chinese Super League side Beijing Sinobo Guoan to fork out £4.5m for him in January 2019, where he has continued to impress.
He’s been nicknamed the ‘Monster’ in South Korea because of his size and aerial ability. Standing at six foot two inches, Kim doesn’t let anything get past him if he can help it. It would be unfair to label him as nothing more than a ‘big fella’ though.
Kim is also renowned for his ability with the ball at his feet, combining an immense passing range with a good reading of the game. Kim could be described as a complete defender.
One thing he hasn’t learned is how to avoid controversy. In May he was heavily criticised himself for slagging off his team mates in an interview, Roy Keane style. The problem was that this was broadcast across the Korean media, angering said team mates.
He criticised the standard of Chinese footballers, stating that the league would be nothing without foreign imports, citing his own importance to his sides defence, and how their title challenge fell apart when Jonathan Vieira was injured.
Despite being the tender age of 23, Kim already has 30 senior caps for South Korea to his name. He was a member of the Under-23 squad that won the Asian Games recently.
He’d have even more caps to his name had he not been unfortunately injured ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.