It’s been a while since our last youth update, but since then Lee Kangin and Jung Wooyeong in particular have made some impressive progress at their respective clubs.
Lee Kangin, who received his first A team start earlier this season in the Copa del Rey, continued to impress in the tournament. He even made his professional debut aged just under 18 years, and in the process became the youngest foreign player in Valencia’s history.
The most recent cup tie for Valencia was against Sporting Gijon, and in both legs Lee Kangin was amongst the standout performers. Most Valencia fans are now calling for Lee Kangin to start in La Liga, especially since his competitors Cheryshev and Batshuayi haven’t been playing too well (source = Twitter reactions carefully dissected by a Korean Youtuber living in Spain). Valencia fans, along with us KNT fans, are also calling for Valencia to play LKI not on the left wing, but as a CAM or as the withdrawn striker in Marcelino’s 4-4-2 system. Indeed, LKI’s talents seem to go to waste as a wide player when he should really be in the center (although his crossing actually isn’t bad).
In a press conference prior to Valencia’s latest La Liga match (the one where LKI made his debut), when a reporter asked Marcelino whether Lee Kangin would start after such a performance in the Copa del Rey, he replied “the manager should be responsible for team selection … for me to start LKI tomorrow in our current situation would be an act of cowardice on my part.” The point Marcelino was trying to make was that for him to start a 17 year old kid who just played 90 minutes a few days prior just because the media is clamoring for him to start would be “un acto de cobardía” – he also later mentioned after the game that they won’t rush his development / take things slowly, which I thought was the right sentiment. Unfortunately, many fans did not react very well to Marcelino’s comments (again, going off of Twitter here), putting additional pressure on an already under-fire manager.
Anyway, enjoy the highlights from LKI’s two starts against Sporting Gijon. I found it interesting how the Spanish commentators talk about LKI (tried to upload as much English commentary as possible here, but the HL’s I watched were in Spanish). They say his technique, intelligence, and crossing abilities are exceptional. They once commented that he’s one of the few players on the squad who knows how to create chances and beat defenders 1 on 1. They often criticize his speed and physicality (ofc), although they qualify these points, saying that although he is slow he knows his limitations and plays accordingly, and that he may be weak physically but knows how to draw fouls when he can.
In my opinion.. LKI is showing more promise than even SHM at the same age, and by next season I am fairly confident he will regularly start in the league. Considering how well he played against the Spanish second division opposition, I’d say he’s ready for La Liga. The problem, as so many disgruntled Valencia fans will say, is Marcelino, his rigid adherence to the 4-4-2, and his conservative squad selection. Maybe these are delaying LKI’s immediate progress, but maybe taking things slowly might be the move. In an interview where Marcelino discusses the progress of Ferran Torres he mentions that one or two good games does not make a player, and that his responsibility is to help the youngsters like Ferran and LKI grow steadily. Professional coaches know more than us so maybe the rage towards Marcelino for not starting Lee Kangin is unwarranted – he comes across as a very philosophical and thoughtful guy (in interviews at least)
Jeong Wooyoung has been on the fringes of the Bayern first team for a while, esp with injuries to Bayern’s incredible depth of wide forwards (Robbery + Gnabry, Muller, James, Kingsley Coman, Alphonso Davies, etc.) However, the kid seems to have stepped up pretty well in the Telekom Cup match against Borussia Monchengladbach, which left Bayern fans debating whether their new 50 mil signing Alphonso Davies or youth product Jeong Wooyoung played better (source: fan websites and Youtube comments). Jeong’s previous runs with the first team have been limited, but this match should put him on the official Ribery-Robben successorship radar.
Youngsters put on a solid performance:Bavaria Football Works
Today, we saw few youngsters playing, and most of them impressed. Davies had a few good dribbles and proved that he possesses speed that will allow him to outrun most players. He should work on his first touch and final ball, but that will come in time. Woo-yeong Jeong also had his moments, such as the superb cross mentioned earlier. He also had a good shot that he may have had passed. And finally, Alexander Lungwitz, who played as left-back, was quite active and conspicuous when Bayern attacked throughout the game. It will be very interesting to watch how these youngsters develop
One more player we haven’t talked about yet is Paik Seung Ho, who won his first start for Girona in the Copa del Rey against Atletico Madrid. Paik’s debut was not quite a smashing success as the rest – many speculate nerves got to him because he made a few mistakes, but his moments of brilliance were clearly there and the manager praised him afterwards. Unfortunatley, he was left out of the squad for the second leg of the Atleti tie. Miraculously, Girona actually knocked out Atletico… but will face Real in the quarterfinals this coming mid-week (Valencia plays Getafe).