Can Napoli continue their glory without Kim Min-jae?
The Italian ‘Arena Napoli’ said on the 9th (below), “Napoli can say with certainty that they have lost the best player in the world. In fact, we would like to emphasize that Napoli has gained a lot financially, but above all, it has become quite weak technically and tactically,” and claimed that it was very unfortunate that Napoli sold Kim Min-jae to Bayern Munich.
“Having arrived fearlessly from Fenerbahce last year as a complete unknown, Kim Min-jae is arguably the best in the world in the center back role. He led Luciano Spalletti’s entire Napoli team last year, showing that he is one of the strongest players in the world. With his speed, adaptability, leadership, and physical strength, Napoli lost their strongest center back. It was no coincidence that the fans called him a monster,” he said, adding that Napoli were very concerned about his departure.
With Kim’s departure to Munich, Napoli earned €50 million ($71.4 billion) in transfer fees. The player they bought for €18.05 million (about KRW 25.7 billion) was sold for about 2.8 times more in just one year. Only Gonzalo Higuain, Edinson Cavani, and Jorginho have left Napoli with more transfer revenue than Kim in the club’s history.
However, none of Ighuain, Cavani, or Jorginho have ever won the Italian Serie A title with Napoli. Kim Min-jae was the star of a historic season that brought Napoli their first Scudetto since the Diego Maradona era.
He was brought in by Napoli to fill a gap in their defense after the departure of key center back Kalidou Koulibaly to Chelsea. It’s no secret what Kim has accomplished since his move to Napoli. Spalletti and former Napoli president Cristiano Giuntoli actively pushed for his signing, and it turned out to be a stroke of genius.
He immediately succeeded in replacing Koulibaly. He was more than just a replacement for Koulibaly. He was not the second Koulibaly, but the first. Kim got off to the best possible start, winning the Italian Serie A Player of the Month award in September. It was the first time a defender had won the Serie A Player of the Month award since Koulibaly in September 2021.
With Kim off to a flying start, Napoli soared. It wasn’t just a modest rise. Napoli and Kim jumped out to an early lead in Serie A with one of the most dominant performances of the season. At the time, Napoli’s rise was on pace to match Antonio Conte’s record for most points in the league in 2013-14 with Juventus.
Kim was consistently competitive at the highest level of the league, and Napoli went on to win the Serie A title, something they hadn’t done since the Diego Maradona era 33 years earlier. Kim’s arrival, which gave Napoli their first title since the 1989-90 season, is one of the biggest transfer success stories of all time.
On Aug. 8, global media outlet Goal.com released a list of the top 10 best transfers in European soccer over the past decade, and Kim was one of them. Along with Kim, the best transfers of the decade were the best players in the world, including Virgil van Dijk, Luis Suarez, and N’Golo Kante.
‘Goal.com’ writes: “Napoli looked set to struggle ahead of the 2022-23 season. With the departure of Dries Mertens and the departure of Koulibaly to Chelsea, the defense looked lacking. Hvitsa Kravacshelia and Kim Min-jae made Napoli a much better team. With their arrival, Napoli reached the Scudetto (Serie A) trophy for the first time since Maradona,” he said.
One of the biggest transfers of all time, Kim was recognized as a world-class player as he was named League Team of the Year and Serie A’s Best Defender. As a result, Kim became the first Asian center back in history to be named one of the 30 finalists for the Ballon d’Or.
On July 7, France Football, the organizer of the Ballon d’Or, announced the list of 30 finalists for the 2023 Ballon d’Or. Kim Min-jae has made Asian soccer history by being included in the 30 finalists for the Ballon d’Or.
Kim Min-jae was named to the Serie A Team of the Year and Serie A’s Best Defender in the 2022-23 season. Few players had a better season than Kim in 2022-23. This is evidenced by the fact that there are only three defenders among the 30 finalists for the 2023 Ballon d’Or. The only other defenders to make the 30-man Ballon d’Or shortlist are Jubeng Dias and Yossouko Gvardiol (Man City).
That puts him in the top 30 for the Ballon d’Or alongside a key City defender from the ‘Treble’ and a defender from the ‘World Cup Final Four’. It’s a testament to how outstanding Kim’s performances were last season.
In the current ranking of the 30 finalists for the Ballon d’Or, Kim is definitely ranked higher than Gbadiol. He even rivals Díaz, who is considered the best defender in the world right now. This shows how highly regarded Kim’s status and skills are.
Napoli are already feeling the loss of Kim’s services. Francesco De Core, the director of Italy’s Il Martino, appeared in the Naples local newspaper ‘Kiss Kiss Napoli’ and said, “I feel the absence of Kim Min-jae. Not just because of his ability, but because other players have grown because of him. For example, Amir Rahmani was a player whose value increased thanks to Kim’s hard work,” he said, arguing that Kim’s absence was too big for Napoli.
Cannavaro, the first defender in football history to win the Ballon d’Or, also believes that “Inter Milan, Juventus, and Napoli will compete for the Scudetto. The league as a whole is leveling out, but it’s leveling down. In any case, it will not be like the season when Napoli won the title. There is a risk that Kim Min-jae’s Italian Napoli will be affected, which was one of Napoli’s strengths last season. Of course, there is time, and it is impossible to judge after only three games.” 온라인바카라
Napoli lost 1-2 against Lazio in the third round of the 2023-24 Serie A on March 3, and Kim’s absence was very much felt. Rahmani and João Jezús started and led the defense, which struggled to contain Lazio’s counterattacks. When Kim was on the field, Napoli was very solid on the counterattack, but this season, the defensive transition hasn’t been as solid. This is where Kim’s absence is felt.
Natan, who was brought in to replace Kim Min-jae, has yet to make his debut. It feels like he’s been pushed out of the starting lineup. If Natan doesn’t perform up to par, Napoli will have no choice but to continue to start Jejus. Jejus is an experienced center back, but he will never be able to replace Kim Min-jae. Even when Kim was at Napoli, he was only brought into the game to help manage Kim’s fitness.
Italian soccer legend Gianluca Zambrotta, who visited Korea for the ‘Legends All-star’ on the 10th, also joked, “I didn’t have the luck to play with Kim Min-jae because of his age,” and then said, “He was an important key to the Napoli championship. Unfortunately, Italy lost him. It’s a shame he went to Bayern Munich. Kudos to Kim Min-jae,” and regretted that Napoli didn’t get him.