This is the golden generation of Korean soccer.
Starting with Cha Bum-geun, the “legend” who pioneered the Europeanization of Korean soccer, the history of Korean soccer’s overseas leagues began in earnest when Park Ji-sung became the first Korean to play in the English Premier League (EPL). Since then, numerous European stars have paved the way, raising the profile of Korean players in Europe.
Then came the standout players. It started with Son Heung-min. After joining Tottenham Hotspur from Leverkusen in 2015-16, Son proved that a Korean player could play as a main striker in the Premier League, scoring 23 goals in the EPL in 2021-22 to become the first Asian to top the EPL scoring charts.
If Son Heung-min has made it to the top of the European game as a South Korean striker, now there’s a top player in defense. Last season, Kim Min-jae was named Serie A’s best defender in his first season with Napoli.
Son Heung-min and Kim Min-jae are arguably the best attackers and defenders in South Korean history. Football fans have seen them play together for a generation, and in their first tournament together, they reached the round of 16 at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
South Korean soccer has produced some of the best strikers and defenders of all time, and now a midfielder like no other in history, Lee Kang-in. After moving to Valencia as a youth, Lee took it step by step. He made his professional debut for Valencia in the 2018-19 season, and while his playing time increased, he wasn’t getting the opportunities he thought he would and his development seemed to stall.
Lee’s progression had its ups and downs, but he eventually proved his worth. In 2021-22, he moved to Mallorca, where he gradually began to showcase his attacking instincts at the professional level, and in 2022-23, he improved his physicality, defense, and speed to reach career highs with six goals and six assists in the league.
After his best season in Mallorca, Lee is now close to joining one of the world’s top clubs, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG). PSG director Luis Campos had been monitoring the player, and the negotiations accelerated. On the 13th, France’s RMC Sport reported that “PSG has offered 22 million euros (about 303 billion won) for Lee Kang-in,” and France’s L’Equipe reported that “Lee Kang-in has already passed the PSG medical test in Paris earlier this week.” In fact, Lee Kang-in is headed to PSG. In fact, it was only a matter of time before Lee joined PSG.
While joining PSG is an achievement in itself, it’s even more impressive that Lee has been touted as the successor to Lionel Messi, the “God of Soccer”. Messi confirmed his move to Inter Miami earlier this month after his PSG contract expired in June. Last season, Messi showed he was still in form with 16 goals and 16 assists in the league, and PSG saw Lee as the man to take over the playmaking duties once he left. While there are obviously differences between the two players’ careers and skill sets, the “role” PSG is looking for from Lee is not unlike that of Messi. 스포츠토토
Son Heung-min, the first Asian to score in the EPL, Kim Min-jae, the best defender in Serie A, and Lee Kang-in, who is about to join PSG. Korean soccer is in the midst of a golden era with all three of them playing at the same time.