Kim Min-jae profile: Man United target hailed ‘best centre back in the world’

Manchester United are reportedly closing in on the signing of Napoli’s Kim Min-jae, with the newly crowned Serie A champions looking likely to lose one of their prized assets this summer.

The South Korea international has long been one of the Red Devils’ key targets as Erik ten Hag looks to strengthen his central defensive options this summer.

Reports have suggested United could trigger the £40million release clause in Kim’s contract to take the 26-year-old to Old Trafford.

A move to the Premier League giants would continue Kim’s upward trajectory in recent years, with the defender having impressed since moving to Europe.

Mail Sport takes a look at what Kim could offer should he complete a move to the club this summer.

Manchester United are reportedly looking to complete a deal for Napoli defender Kim Min-jae

Kim was among Napoli's star performers as the club claimed their first Serie A title since 1990

Kim was among Napoli’s star performers as the club claimed their first Serie A title since 1990

Who is he?

Kim has enjoyed an impressive rise since taking the decision to pursue a career as a professional football player. 

The ambition led to him dropping out of Yonsei University in his second year, where he had been studying sport, leisure and physical education.

Kim told the Guardian last year that he had taken the decision to help financially support his parents, with the former track athletes having worked to fund their small sushi restaurant in their home city of Tongyeon.

The central defender joined South Korean side Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in 2016, helping the side to secure consecutive K-League titles in 2017 and 2018.

An injury prevented Kim from featuring for South Korea at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, but he formed part of the country’s Asian Games winning team in Jakarta and Palembang later that year.

The gold medal at the tournament gave Kim and his team-mates an exemption from their two-year military service, with only a couple of weeks of basic training required.

Kim then spent two-and-a-half seasons in Chinese Super League with Beijing Guoan, leading to interest from European clubs.

The 26-year-old completed a switch to Turkish side Fenerbahce in August 2021, with the South Korean still a relative newcomer to European football. Kim’s performances during his one season in Turkey led to Napoli shelling out £16million for his signature.

The 26-year-old centre back joined Napoli last summer after one season at Fenerbahce

The 26-year-old centre back joined Napoli last summer after one season at Fenerbahce

Kim’s rise at Napoli

The centre back was billed as the long-term replacement for Kalidou Koulibaly, who left Napoli last summer to join Chelsea for £33million. He quickly endeared himself to his team-mates with a rendition of PSY’s Gangnam Style at his initiation.

Kim has been a central part of Napoli’s success this season as the club secured their first Serie A title since 1990.

He has started 34 of Napoli’s 36 Serie A matches during the title winning campaign, with Luciano Spalletti’s side conceding just 26 goals in the league.

Despite being billed as an aggressive defender, Kim has only received four yellow cards during Serie A season. 

However, he crucially was suspended for the second leg of Napoli’s Champions League quarter-final against AC Milan, after being harshly booked in the first leg.

Having been an instant success, Napoli were reportedly considering offering Kim a new deal in January to fend off interest from rival clubs. 

The suggestion came despite Kim signing three-year contract last summer, which came with an option for the club to extend the deal for an additional two years.

Napoli could instead be about to secure a major profit after a single campaign, with Man United reportedly set to trigger his £40m release clause. 

Kim enjoyed instant success at Napoli which has led to interest from the Premier League

Kim enjoyed instant success at Napoli which has led to interest from the Premier League

What are his strengths?

Kim earned the nickname ‘The Monster’ during his early years as a professional, due to being physically imposing at 6ft 4in.

The South Korean has reportedly been inspired by both Sergio Ramos and Fabio Cannavaro.

And Kim has become known for his aggressive approach, tightly marking forwards.

Kim has also been hailed for his composure in possession during his career, which would make him an obvious fit in Man United boss Erik ten Hag’s side.

He has earned a reputation for driving up the pitch in possession of the ball, with his stature making him hard to knock off the ball.

Both of Kim’s goals for Napoli have come from set pieces this season, with defender heading in corners against Monza and Lazio.

While he may possess a similar frame to current Man United captain Harry Maguire, the South Korean’s pace has also been noted which should make him equipped to cope with a move to the Premier League.

Kim also seems unlikely to be deterred by a move, with the defender sporting a tattoo on his chest which reads ‘Carpe Diem’ (Seize the moment).

Kim has been nicknamed as 'The Monster' due to the defender's imposing physique

Kim has been nicknamed as ‘The Monster’ due to the defender’s imposing physique 

The defender's ability on the ball has been praised with Kim regularly driving out from the back

The defender’s ability on the ball has been praised with Kim regularly driving out from the back

What have people said about him?

Napoli boss Spalletti has unsurprisingly been among Kim’s biggest fans, with the Italian labelling him as the ‘best centre back in the world’ earlier this season.

Spalletti highlighted both his aggression and skill when outlining why Kim has become such a crucial player to his side.  ‘I’ve seen few players in my life and career with the skills and qualities of Kim Min-jae,’ Spalletti said in March.

‘He’s incredible, always aggressive — he deserves to start every game. Kim does at least 20 incredible things per game, for me he truly is the best centre back in the world.

‘When he starts the run with the ball at his feet, he can get it into the opposition penalty area in five seconds flat.’

Kim can also count former Man United boss Jose Mourinho among his admirers, with the Roma manager describing him as a ‘top player’ before a match against Napoli in January.

Mourinho used the opportunity to reveal that he had wanted to sign Kim for Tottenham, with the South Korean having heavily been linked with a move to North London during his time at the club. 

‘I can tell you a story about one of their players. I spoke to him on FaceTime and wanted to buy him at Tottenham, but Tottenham didn’t help me,’ said Mourinho.

‘I had some FaceTime calls with him — our bid was €5m (£4.3m), Fenerbahce wanted €10m (£8.6m) for Kim and for Tottenham that wasn’t possible at that point. Now look at Kim and his level, he’s a top player’.

Napoli boss Luciano Spalletti hailed Kim as the 'best centre back in the world' earlier this year

Napoli boss Luciano Spalletti hailed Kim as the ‘best centre back in the world’ earlier this year

Are there any complications?

Kim’s £40m release clause will reportedly become active from July 1 to 15, which would allow Man United to secure a cut-price deal.

An issue to completing a move could be Kim’s whereabouts, with the defender’s military service having been pencilled in June and July.

Reports have suggested Kim will complete three weeks of basic military training, which may complicated any transfer away from Napoli.

Kim had previously complained of ‘mental fatigue’ in March after hurriedly issuing an apology after declaring he wanted to focus on his club and not the South Korean national team.

‘I apologise to them and the players who were surprised by my words,’ Kim wrote on social media, after the 49-cap international faced a backlash for his comments.

‘I had a minor injury and I have recovered. I’ve played many games and I never spared myself. 

‘I collapsed mentally and had an outburst. 

‘I apologise again and ask the fans always to support us.’