European soccer’s 2022-2023 season came to a close in June when English Premier League (EPL) “new kid on the block” Manchester City won the UEFA Champions League (UCL) trophy, completing the first “treble” in the club’s history. European soccer then took a break for the summer transfer window. For those who enjoy European soccer, it was more of an ‘off-season’ with a sense of freedom, but Korean fans were different. The summer was a hot one for Korea’s soccer stars, with one big transfer after another. From the established players to the newcomers, the players who have been cooling their heels at their respective clubs are now set to compete in the 2023-2024 seasons, which will be the peak of the European season, and the attention of soccer fans will be even more focused.
One of the biggest stories of the summer was the birth of a “big club” member. Last season, defender Kim Min-jae, who led Napoli to their first league title in 33 years in the Italian Serie A, switched to Bayern Munich, the home of the German Bundesliga, a year after moving to Napoli. He was named Defender of the Year in Italy and became a world-class defender, but he chose Munich over other big clubs. He made his presence felt with an assist in a friendly against Liverpool (England) on February 2 and is quickly integrating into the team. It will be interesting to see if he can continue his success in the Bundesliga, which kicks off on April 18.
‘Soccer genius’ Lee Kang-in joined French powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), where he will play alongside top stars such as Neymar (Brazil). Lee Kang-in, who visited Korea for the first time with PSG on March 3 and played a friendly match with Jeonbuk Hyundai, showed off his great chemistry with Neymar, raising fans’ expectations for the French Ligue 1, which starts on the 11th. With both Kim Min-jae and Lee Kang-in competing in the UCL, it will be interesting to see if they can reach the heights of European champions.
In the EPL, Son Heung-min (Tottenham) and Hwang Hee-chan (Wolverhampton) will be looking to bounce back from last season’s disappointments. Son was more of a defensive player under Antonio Conte last season, and he was also sidelined with a hernia. As a result, after becoming the first Asian player to lead the EPL in goals (23) in 2021-2022, he scored less than half as many (10) last season. Now fully recovered from his injury, Son is determined to thrive in the new regime of manager Enzi Postecoglou, who is committed to ‘attacking football’.
Hwang Hee-chan, who missed a lot of time last season due to a thigh injury, also warmed up for the start of the new season with a goal in the final preseason game against Stade Rennes (France) on May 5. Defender Ji-Soo Kim, 20, who became the “youngest EPL player” when he joined EPL Brentford this summer, will also compete for a first-team spot. The 2023-2024 EPL season kicks off on Nov. 11.
We’re also looking forward to seeing the performances of our newest K-Leaguers. Cho Kyu-sung (Mittwillan), who left Jeonbuk for Denmark, is already proving his choice with a strong showing in the league. He came off the bench in the 36th minute to score the winning goal in the third round of the Danish Professional Football Superliga 2023-2024 on July 7 against Ljungby. Despite the team’s 1-4 loss, Cho has scored in all three league games, including the league opener on May 22, the second round match, and today’s game.안전놀이터
Scottish Premiership side Celtic now have a complete Korean ‘trio’. Following Oh Hyun-gyu’s move from K League One Suwon Samsung in January, Yang Hyun-joon and Kwon Hyuk-gyu joined Celtic this summer from Gangwon and Busan respectively. In addition, Jung Woo-young (Stuttgart), Lee Jae-sung (Mainz), Hwang In-beom (Olympiakos), Hong Hyun-seok (KAA Gent), and Hwang Eui-jo (Nottingham) will also play in Europe.