Words by Martin Lowe
Name: Kim Jin-Su
Club: Hoffenheim (Germany)
Position: Left Back
After being one of our young picks ahead of the Asian Cup, Kim Jin-Su went above and beyond our expectations as he gained admirers game by game, finishing the tournament in many peoples’ all-star teams and jumping into numerous scouts notepads. But for a personal error in the final, the accolades could’ve flooded Korea Republic’s way. For a 22 year old to progress however he must learn from his mistakes, as he travels forward on what has already been a very interesting career path.
The youngster who only moved to Europe (joining Hoffenheim) in the summer has had a relatively successful start to his career despite a couple of notable injuries. The first, an ankle problem that kept him out of Korea’s World Cup plans last summer, the second, a thigh injury which was picked up during Korea’s successful Asian Games campaign, it ruled him out for a month of the Bundesliga season. In between the layoffs he has become a key part of an ever improving Hoffenheim side, and just this month a key man on a record equalling Korean defence at the Asian Cup.
His playing style has caught many people’s attention, attacking at will down the left, offering a promising out ball in a young and willing attacking set up at Hoffenheim. This was used to fully complement Korea’s Asian Cup set up under new coach Uli Stielike, who paired him with Son Heung-Min down the team’s right, allowing their star man to cut in leaving Kim in an advanced wide position outside him. His capabilities were stretched ever further, with a couple of notable assists that came from initially static attacks and then becoming a regular taker for in-swinging dead balls from the right.
His place, as was the case in Brazil was assumed to be taken up by Yun Suk-Young or by his replacement in the World Cup squad, the experienced Park Jo-Ho. It came as a slight surprise to see Stielike opting for the Hoffenheim defender ahead of Yun for the Asian Cup after he had initially not featured too heavily in preparation. Even more so that Park was deployed in midfield throughout the tournament, with full responsibility being thrust on the young Kim, who embraced the challenge.
Now all hasn’t been and will not be always smooth. His injury setbacks and continual involvement with the Korean national team could eventually see him lose out for his club side on return. Other question marks surround his defensive ability, which at times can lack bite, due to his physical disadvantage. Kim is incredibly slight in comparison to a typical opponent, which enables his speed going forwards to be a weapon but can see him lose out in the individual physical battle. His loss in a crucial 50/50 challenge with Tomi Juric in the Asian Cup final proved pivotal in Australia’s winning goal, something that hasn’t been missed when followers have critiqued his performance.
As is the case in many of these situations, how well Kim can bounce back is key to illustrate what level the player is at, and what he can achieve both domestically and for his country. At 22, his development is, as expected, dominated by his qualities, primarily his eye catching surging runs. With time his ability going the other way will surely improve, given the quality of opponents he’s likely to be up against in the Bundesliga. The last year has seen Kim preoccupied with plenty of national service with the Taegurk Warriors; 2015 should give him the opportunity to knuckle down and steadily improve on his bread and butter.