LONDON: South Korean international Kim Jin-su can’t wait to start playing for Al-Nasr after his transfer from Jeonbuk Motors was confirmed on Sunday, a move that was pushed through by the player.
Al-Nasr have been chasing the highly rated left-back for weeks and finally got their man after telling Jeonbuk, two-time Asian champions, that they had until the end of August to accept an undisclosed fee for the 28-year-old who has made 46 appearances for the Taeguk Warriors.
“It is still a little surreal,” Kim, who spent two seasons in the Bundesliga with Hoffenheim from 2014-16, told domestic media after saying goodbye to his Jeonbuk team-mates. “It feels like it is not real but I am looking forward to this new stage of my career. I am sad to leave Jeonbuk but if I can be as happy and successful at Al-Nasr as I was here then it will be great.”
Kim leaves the champions of South Korea, who currently sit in second place in the K-League, to join the champions of Saudi Arabia who sit in second place in the Saudi Pro League. Al-Nasr are six points behind Al-Hilal with just two games to play while Jeonbuk are just four points behind Ulsan Horang-i with nine remaining.
“I am sorry to leave at such a time when the team is fighting for the title and I have told them to go and win it without me,” Kim, who has also played for Albirex Niigata in Japan, said. “From now, however, all my energy is focused on helping Al-Nasr achieve success. I know I am joining a big team and am ready for the challenge.”
Jeonbuk did all they could to keep hold of Kim, one of the K-League’s biggest stars and also one of its highest paid at around $1.2 million a year, but were fighting a losing battle from the start.
While the fee and salary are undisclosed, Arab News understands that Kim was offered a significant rise by Al-Nasr to around $3 million. The move made financial sense for Jeonbuk, too, as with the international’s contract ending in December, he would have been able to leave for nothing.
With Al-Nasr telling Jeonbuk to make a decision by the end of August, Jeonbuk waited as long as possible to keep the player before agreeing.
“We wanted Kim to stay,” a Jeonbuk official told Arab News. “He is an important player for us but Al-Nasr made it clear how much they wanted him, and in the end he wanted to go and we thought that we should not stand in the way of a player’s wishes. We wish him well in Saudi Arabia.”
Jeonbuk’s desire to keep Kim is understandable as the club is facing a crucial couple of months with the resumption of the AFC Champions League in October, a competition that the club is keen to win for a third time, and also the rest of the K-League season.
Not only that, the domestic transfer window is closed, meaning that Jeonbuk are unable to sign a replacement until the end of the season. The club offered Kim a contract extension but with coronavirus hitting the revenues of the club’s owners Hyundai Motors, it included a salary reduction.
The new Al-Nasr player will be turning to another South Korean left-back who went to Saudi Arabia for advice. Lee Young-pyo, who also played for Tottenham Hotspur, PSV Eindhoven and Borussia Dortmund, won the 2010 and 2011 league titles with Al-Hilal. Kim’s former international team-mate Jang Hyun-soo is currently with Al-Hilal.
Kim, who represented Korea at the 2018 World Cup, is due to arrive in Riyadh at the end of the week. “I hope I can make a difference as soon as possible and I am looking forward to the challenge,” he said.