Better late than never? A couple weeks ago, the KFA introduced the new chairman of the National Team Committee, Michael Müller. Müller replaced the outgoing Lee Yong-soo as the chair and he has also held other positions within the KFA working within the youth setup. He met the press at his introduction and gave a short interview. You can read the full interview (in English) here. But, we’ll summarize the key points and ponder on what some of the implications might be.
- Müller said that he has established five major criteria for the new manager based on requirements from the KFA. They are:
- environmental factors.
- While Lee Yong-soo did hand over a shortlist of potential candidates, Müller said he’d rather start from scratch.
- Communication with the national team players (presumably the veterans) will happen, but what is said will remain private.
- He wants to find a manager who will continue the work that Bento started.
- He believes that the philosophy of the national team should include core “values” of Korean football – strong mentality and fighting spirit.
- Despite the KFA initially stating a new coach will be appointed by the end of February, Müller wants to follow the process “in accordance with the right guidelines”.
Pulling meaning from the interview
The interview was fairly short, and didn’t contain a huge amount of big, breaking news type statements to be honest, but there were a few interesting things I thought.
He wants to start from scratch
We all remember right after the World Cup that there were rumors that former U23 boss Kim Hak-bum was the KFA’s preferred (and pre-selected) choice for the national team. There were a number of other odd choices that got floated like Ahn Jung-hwan and Hong Myung-bo. If those were names on Lee Yong-soo’s shortlist, then it seems like Müller at least has the sense to throw cold water on those ideas. The feeling I got from this statement is that he’s not particularly enthused with the shortlist he’s received which is probably a very good sign.
Continuing Bento’s work
Müller seemed fairly unequivocal about the new manager continuing the philosophy that Bento had created. Now admittedly, this can be a little bit of a slippery technical thing – exactly what a “philosophy” means. Müller did say later that while the KFA’s direction/philosophy should be clear and established, the “style of play… is a separate issue.” But hopefully it means that he’s looking for a manager who follows similar ideas to Bento and we won’t see a return to route one ball (ala Choi Kang-hee) or something like Kim Hak-bum usually plays.
Listening to the players
Even if it is only an ‘on the face’ kind of thing, it is promising that he says he will listen to the opinions of the players and current staff. I imagine the players have relatively strong opinions about the type of manager they want and the style of football they’d like to play. Hopefully the KFA will at least partially take into consideration what they have to say on the issue. Also, as a side note, in the question that prompted this answer, Lee Jae-sung was singled out as the current international who has voiced this idea on behalf of the players. I haven’t tracked all the interviews and statements from the players post-World Cup, but it is interesting to see Lee Jae-sung take a leadership role amongst the players.
Another German boss incoming?
A slightly interesting thing Müller said was that he’d “like to see who would be available amongst the ones I know personally.” On face value this means German bosses he knows, but given his work in Korean football at the youth level he could very well have connections and contacts within the Korean coaching community as well. Of course, the last German boss we had was Uli Stielike. Stielike started well, but ended poorly, and pre-World Cup comments suggested the part was less than amicable.
Don’t have to live in Korea?
I seem to recall that before Bento was hired, a sticking point with some other foreign managers was the idea that they would have to live in Korea even between national team meetups. This idea also popped up again in this interview with Müller saying, “We’d also have to see whether they could in fact live in Korea.” However, he would also say, “all of these things should be considered individually.” I wonder if this means that while the KFA would greatly prefer a boss who lives in Korea full time, they would potentially be willing to waive this requirement if the other conditions were met to a high degree?
Reading the tea leaves
I don’t think we can gleam a whole lot in terms of who might emerge from any shortlist. However, it is a promising appointment and he said the ‘right’ things. I think there was a lot of concern after the World Cup with the rumors that floated around that the KFA, having earned some kudos from the public, were prepared to take a little time off – so to speak – and make a quick and easy hire (and someone who’d toe their line publicly). The Müller appointment would suggest that’s not the case. And again, he made the right statements about picking the right manager rather than rushing to get someone soon. Who will turn up? We’ll just have to wait and see.
A little late, but thanks for this! At first, I was like, who’s this euro guy they’re hiring? I was glad that he has extensive experience in Korea. Also, I have to say, even though he didn’t say much, even in that little bit, he has said way more substantive and positive things that I could hope for than previous regimes. I’ve always felt that part of KFA’s problems, aside from the nepotism, was that they didn’t really offer much vision or sense of soccer identity to pursue. This guy, even if it’s just words, is saying the right things and indicating that he’s got a big picture in mind, which I seriously doubt previous regimes had. Let’s hope something comes of it.