|South Korean International Kim Min-jae greets fans after the Asian Cup qualification match between Korea and China at the Al Nayan Stadium in Arab Emirates, Jan. 17, 2019. / Yonhap|
By John Duerden
In a week that saw Son Heung-min sweep the board at the Tottenham Hotspur season awards, there was plenty of interest in the reports coming out of China and South Korea that the same English Premier League club is interested in signing Kim Min-jae.
The prospect of the two countrymen lining up for one of the biggest teams in England is an intriguing one. Son has established himself as one of the most exciting forwards in Europe and, more quietly, Kim has forged a reputation as one of Asia's premier defenders.
The story so far is that Tottenham has made a bid for Kim, who has been nicknamed "The Monster" due to his physical prowess, of around $13 million. In the upper reaches of European soccer such a figure is almost negligible ― after all it can only be speculated as to how much Son is worth but it would surely be at least five times that figure ― but in Asia it would be seen as a significant sum.
Not only have Asian players been undervalued in the past but quite often, Asian teams have bent over backwards to allow their stars to head to what are seen as the big leagues cheaply. Beijing however is not desperate to sell and with the Chinese season just starting (only five months after it was supposed to start) is doubly reluctant to lose its best defender.
According to reports in the Chinese media Beijing is ready to play hardball and wants an extra $6m or so before it will agree to the deal. It remains to be seen what will happen. Beijing may not be desperate to sell but if it was not interested then it would not be leaking details to local media.
Kim wants to go. He has been linked with other clubs in Europe but wants to go to England. There have been few Asian central defenders to have gone to Europe at all with even fewer succeeding. Japan's Maya Yoshida stands out but the pickings are slim indeed. Kim is young at 23 but already has plenty of experience. He has all the skills necessary to succeed.
Many fans in Beijing, runner-up in the Chinese Super League in 2019, won't be unhappy to see Kim go since earlier this year he gave an interview with Korean media in which he suggested that he had to do most of the defending in Beijing because his Chinese colleagues are not as good as he is.
If Tottenham really wants Kim then the money will easily be found. At the moment, it seems to be something of a stand-off though. Koreans fans and media are willing Kim to make the step up with the opinion that a move to the Chinese Super League is, at best, a sideways step from South Korea. The English Premier League would be a different proposition and to have two Koreans in the same team would be, to say the least, interesting.