Yet another installment of the 2019-20 KPA News Roundup series. Enjoy!
Jang Hyun-soo Wins the AFC Champions League (What It Entails for Kim Min-jae)
Last November, Jang Hyun-soo was officially barred from returning to national team duty for falsifying records related to his military exemption. The then-27-year-old was hit with a 30 million won ($36,500) fine for the offense and apologized subsequently after news of the misdealing had broken out. Prior to the controversy, the disgraced defender had been criticized frequently for being gaffe-prone, giving away a handball penalty in a World Cup match against Mexico last year.
But one year into his lifetime KNT ban, Jang Hyun-soo has found himself in a more successful predicament than anyone would have ever fathomed. JHS has played a vital role in the 3-nil aggregate win of his new club, Al-Hilal, over the J-League’s Urawa Red Diamonds in the AFC Champions League final. Fans have mostly praised the KNT’s former go-to defender for his impressive performances throughout the tournament and for improving the club’s defensive woes.
As a reward for the continental triumph, Al-Hilal, the most historically successful football club in Saudi Arabia, have notched a place in the FIFA Club World Cup. JHS, in particular, has expressed his anticipation for playing in the tournament, saying that it “will be a terrific experience.” He looked quite far ahead into the tournament, revealing his desire to play against Liverpool and face off against Virgil van Dijk in the cup’s later stages.
This comes as potentially fantastic news for KNT defender Kim Min-jae who currently plays for Chinese Super League club Beijing Guoan. He has been looking to make a move to Europe, possibly to Watford in the Premier League, for quite a while now. As he looks to possibly transfer to Europe in the upcoming winter transfer window, JHS’ success proves him as a viable option to replace KMJ for Beijing next season. A prospective move away from the CSL would, otherwise, be very difficult without a prospective replacement available for Beijing Guoan.
As far as JHS stands with his club in the present moment, Al-Hilal currently sits atop the Saudi first division with nine matches under their belt. JHS has competed in eight of such matches with the club having surrendered 11 goals this season, an average of a little more than one goal per match. They face ES Tunis in the Club World Cup Quarterfinals on December 14 at 9 a.m. ET. As far as the transfer rumors are concerned, though? It’s doubtful. JHS has likely found a place where he can’t royally screw up. Good for him, bad for KMJ.
Son Heung-min Nets First Goal of Spurs’ Mourinho Era, Provides Crucial UCL Assist
Add one more to the ever-growing list of firsts for Son Heung-min: he has now scored the first goal for Tottenham Hotspur in the Jose Mourinho era. Capitalizing on a Dele Alli pass, the 27-year-old would breeze one through goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski in the 35th minute of Spurs’ match at West Ham United last Saturday. The London Stadium goal comes several months after the forward scored both the first domestic and European goal in the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last April.
Flash forward a few days later, and SHM provides a game-winning flick of a header to Serge Aurier against Olympiacos last Tuesday. The clever pass set up one of the flashiest angles you’ll see on a goal this season. Initially falling down by two goals in the match, Spurs managed to score four consecutive goals to clinch a spot in the tournament’s Round of 16. Having secured 10 points in the course of five matches, Spurs are now set for a second consecutive second place group stage finish in the UCL.
In the midst of Tottenham’s managerial transition, it’s difficult to discern what SHM’s new role will be with his club. He and his teammates may be reckoned with a more defensive approach to each match, relying on the counter-attacking tactics historically in-tune with his new gaffer’s tactical preferences. Others, however, believe that Mourinho will be more adaptive towards Spurs’ attacking style of play, allowing his players to play more offensively-minded than what he has previously employed.
We’ll just have to wait and see. Tottenham faces off against Bournemouth this Saturday at 10 a.m. ET. SHM is slated to start.
Lee Kang-in: Transfer Rumor + Injury Report
Valencia midfielder Lee Kang-in is once again being linked to a smaller club in Spain’s first division. Per SPOTV News, the 18-year-old is now rumored for a loan move to Osasuna which currently sits 11th in the La Liga table. Prior to the beginning of this season, LKI was linked to a move to Levante, another La Liga minnow looking to bolster its attacking capabilities. Other sources aired noise to the idea that the young midfielder would move to Ajax. It was believed that he would spend significant time improving his game with the Dutch club’s reserve team.
Regardless of which move would come into fruition, LKI has the potential to develop by setting his playing sights elsewhere for a minimum of the rest of the season. He has made appearances in all five of Valencia’s UCL group stage matches. In total, he has secured 13 appearances in all competitions this season but has made minimal impact in each of his playing opportunities.
Osasuna has played a combination of the 4-4-2 and 4-2-3-1 formations over the past few months with an open CAM spot available for LKI’s taking. On a probable timeline, the youngster wouldn’t start immediately but would slowly start to weave himself into a starting position towards the end of the season. Ironically, however, Osasuna sits just one position below Valencia in the current La Liga standings. The Oranges may reconsider their talks for a loan deal for LKI as long as they continue to struggle in their domestic campaign.
This also means that we may not be seeing LKI in a Valencia jersey from now until the rest of the season. The midfielder recently received a knock after subbing on late in the second-half during a group-defining UCL match against Chelsea last Tuesday. Spanish sports media outlet Superdeporte reports that LKI had torn a muscle in his left thigh but already felt pain in that area during training before last Tuesday’s match. He is set to be ruled out for the next one to two months.
Had Valencia led the match, LKI may have been ruled out for the match entirely. Instead, they needed all the help they could get for a chance to progress in the UCL. We’ll see in a month or two whether LKI will be making any European appearances for the rest of the season.
Bonus: Park Jung-bin Joins Swiss Super League Club after Long Wait
After leaving Viborg FF of the Danish Superliga last season, forward Park Jung-bin decided to try his hand at top-level competition, participating in trials in France throughout last summer. The 25-year-old would showcase his skills with Ligue 2 club Troyes and Ligue 1 club Nimes Olympique. Although PJB was not picked up by either team, he stayed persistent in his search for stronger competition in European football, and it eventually paid off.
On November 18, PJB would join Geneva-based Swiss Super League club Servette FC. This would mark his sixth European club in eight years of professional football. He previously split time between the second division in Germany and first division in Denmark. By making the jump from Viborg, PJB has now transitioned from the 13th strongest to 20th strongest league in Europe by UEFA league coefficient.
However, the Swiss league does boast more historically prominent teams including Young Boys and FC Basel. PJB would make his Swiss league debut against the former, coming on as a substitute in the 2-nil win last Saturday. Servette currently sits 5th out of 10 clubs in the Swiss Superliga standings and may have enough firepower to qualify for the Europa league next season.
Servette goes away to Lugano FC this Sunday at 10:00 a.m. ET. We, at the Tavern, will stay on the lookout for PJB’s upcoming matches.