In Europe, it is common to see cases where the annual salary of a manager is higher than that of a player. According to French media Requipe, Diego Simeone, manager of Atletico Madrid (Spain), receives 29.8 million pounds (approximately 49.8 billion won), the highest annual salary for a commanding tower in the world. It is much higher than goalkeeper Jan Oblac (20.83 million euros, about 30.3 billion won), the highest salary in the team. Manchester City (England) manager Pep Guardiola, who earns an annual salary of 19.7 million pounds (approximately 32.9 billion won), also receives a higher salary than most players.
The difference in market size cannot be ignored, but it is unimaginable in Korea. Coaches in the professional football K-League are famous for their low wages compared to their players. Unlike players, salaries for coaches are kept strictly secret, and in the case of K-League 2 (2nd division), they are set at around 100 million won. One player who requested anonymity said, “There are not many players who say they will be leaders these days. Low salary is the biggest reason.”
The professional baseball KBO league is at least better. Lee Seung-yeop, the new manager of the Doosan Bears, signed a three-year contract worth 1.8 billion won, including down payment. If you calculate it as an annual salary, it is about 600 million won. Former Doosan coach Kim Tae-hyeong, who was recorded as the highest-paid coach in KBO history, received a total of 2.8 billion won (approximately 900 million won in annual salary) over three years, including down payment.
Of course, not all K-League coaches have low salaries. Teams competing to win the K-League 1 (Part 1) sometimes set a high salary for their coaches. Jeonbuk Hyundai, which is looking for a new coach after Kim Sang-sik left, is looking for a foreign coach worth 1 million dollars (approximately 1.3 billion won). Pohang Steelers coach Kim Ki-dong also doubled his annual salary in four years.
The relatively low salary of coaches in domestic professional sports is due to the perception that coaches have less impact on team performance than players. However, times have changed and the coach’s tactics often determine victory or defeat. As the number of teams investing indiscriminately like in the past has decreased, there is an atmosphere in which talented managers are recruited to maximize efficiency. The era has come when directors who are naturally recognized for their abilities are treated accordingly.
Ulsan Hyundai, which is trying to win its second K-League title this season, also put forward an unconventional condition to renew the contract in order to retain manager Hong Myung-bo. An official familiar with the K-League situation said, “Ulsan and coach Hong Myung-bo are negotiating a renewal contract.”
Director Hong’s renewal of the contract means a lot. This is because a leader, like a player, can be a representative case who receives reasonable treatment according to his ability and performance. Coach Hong is a hero who gave Ulsan its first K-League 안전놀이터 championship in 17 years last year, the second year of his appointment. This season as well, it is running at an overwhelming 1st place and contributing to the K-League box office success beyond Ulsan. In particular, through his strong charisma, it is evaluated that he united the players with strong personalities in Ulsan, where national team players are lined up.
Director Hong’s brand power cannot be ignored. In the locker room conversation released last year in the club’s self-produced documentary ‘Blue Wave’, the scene in which they shouted, “Is this a team?” spawned numerous parodies on social media. Even after that, his every word resonated greatly with the entire K-League. It was possible because it was ‘Hong Myung-bo’.
An official said, “Director Hong’s existence alone means a lot to the K-League. If the contract is renewed, it will be an event that will mark a milestone in the history of domestic professional sports.” It will also be a wake-up call to juniors who catch it,” he explained.