When the news of Kim Min-jae joining Napoli broke in late July last year, it was met with a lot of skepticism in Italy.
The signing of Kim Min-jae was meant to replace Kalidou Koulibaly, Napoli’s “founding father” and Serie A’s best defender of the 2018-2019 season.
After maintaining his status as one of the best defenders in the league, Koulibaly left for Chelsea (England), and the shadow of his ‘predecessor’ followed Kim through the early and mid-season.
“Coulibaly is a Napoli legend,” Kim said in an interview with Italian daily La Repubblica in late October last year, “and the responsibility of replacing him weighs heavily on my shoulders.”
More than eight months later, Kim was named Serie A’s best defender for the 2022-2023 season on Wednesday. It was the first time in four seasons since Coulibaly that Napoli had won the honor.
He made 35 league appearances, earning a reputation as a “monster defender” and helping Napoli win their first league title in 33 years.
He had a 91% passing accuracy rate, 122 interceptions, 55 tackles, and 41 interceptions. He also scored two league goals and added two assists.
On soccer stats site Footmob, he ranked 10th in season rating (7.43) and first in average passes per 90 minutes (75.1).
He was praised locally from the start of the season for his ability to compete for aerial balls with his athleticism and his ability to defend all over the field with his quickness.
Kim won 2.6 aerial duels per game in the league, a figure that rose to 3.6 in the nine matches of the UEFA Champions League (UCL) on the ‘big stage’.
In a home game against Lazio in early March (a 0-1 loss), Napoli won all eight of their aerial battles.
Even Serie A strikers who tried to get behind Napoli’s defense by relying solely on their strength were repeatedly thwarted by Kim’s frightening speed.
According to Football Reference, the American data website, Kim has only missed an opponent in a contested situation with a player trying to break through on the dribble four times this season.
Napoli, who clinched the league title early against Udinese in the 33rd round, have conceded just 28 goals in 37 matches this season, the fewest among Serie A’s 20 teams.
The Italian ‘legend’ defenders were full of praise for Kim Min-jae.
Legendary AC Milan center back Alessandro Costacurta, who won the UCL title five times, told Sky Sports Italy earlier this month, “Napoli can leave space at the back because of Kim Min-jae. “He has great speed, anticipation and the ability to read opponents’ movements,” he said, adding, “If you make a mistake, he’s behind you.
Italian soccer hero Fabio Cannavaro, Napoli’s legendary defender and only the third defender in history to win the Ballon d’Or, has also praised Kim throughout the season in interviews with local media.
ESPN’s Spanish-language outlet ESPN Deportes, which earlier this month hailed Kim as “the best defender in the world who came from Asia to make Napoli people’s dreams come true,” said on Wednesday, “Coulibaly left and Kim Min-jae came. Thanks to him, Napoli only spent 18 million euros (about 252 billion won).”메이저사이트
The 18 million euros is the amount that former club Fenerbahçe (Turkkiye) reportedly set as a buyout (guaranteed minimum transfer fee) for Kim Min-jae.