Meet Lee Kang-In – the next great South Korean talent by Shay Hicks
Name: Lee Kang-In
Nationality: South Korean
D.O.B: 21/02/2001 (21 years old)
Height: 173cm (5’8″)
Strong Foot: Left
Current Club: RCD Mallorca
Positions: Attacking midfielder, Winger
Current Value: £8.10m (via Transfermarkt)
Lee Kang-In is a promising young attacker who can play centrally or on either wing. With his flashy dribbling, creative touch and bags of undiscovered potential, he has already shown flashes of what he could becoming the next great South Korean talent.
Lee began his football career as a child in South Korea with K-League side Incheon United, before signing to Valencia’s youth system in the summer of 2011. He worked his way up the ranks of the Valencia youth system and eventually was called up to Valencia B in late 2017. He impressed on numerous occasions, but his real breakout moment was on the international stage at the 2019 FIFA u20 World Cup, where he won the Golden Ball and pushed his side to a second-place performance at the tournament. He carried his international momentum into his club football, and quickly established himself as an important squad player for Valencia in the 2019/20 season.
After another promising season in 2020/21, a long-term dispute over a contract extension ended when he was rather surprisingly released by Valencia in the summer of 2021. However, it wasn’t all bad news for Lee as he immediately signed a four-year deal with newly promoted RCD Mallorca the very next day. He made his presence in the squad known quickly and went on to become an important attacking option for them in his debut season. After a solid 2021/22 campaign, Lee is primed and ready for a true breakout season in 2022/23. After a strong early showing including Man Of The Match performances and 5 total goal contributions, he has pushed his way to becoming a key starter for Mallorca. Furthermore, his hot start to the season has given South Korean head coach Paulo Bento a late selection headache, as Lee has given him more than enough reason to consider including him in his 26-man world cup squad. Whether he makes it to Qatar or not though, one thing is for certain: Lee Kang-In has shown more than enough promise to start making waves in La Liga this season and could very well attract a number of potential suitors for a big move next summer.
Notable dates in Lee Kang-In’s career:
– 15/12/2017 – Called up to Valencia B
– 21/12/2017 – Valencia B debut
– 30/10/2018 – Valencia senior debut, became youngest ever Korean to play in europe
– 12/01/2019 – La Liga debut, youngest non-spanish and first ever asian Valencia league player
– 30/01/2019 – Permanently called up to the Valencia senior squad
– Summer 2019 – Named Golden Ball winner for the 2019 FIFA u20 World Cup
– 05/09/2019 – Made international debut for South Korea
– 17/09/2019 – Champions League debut, youngest ever Korean Champions League player
– 25/09/2019 – First league goal, youngest non-spanish goalscorer for Valencia (record since broken by Yunus Musah)
– 29/08/2021- Contract terminated by Valencia
– 30/08/2021- Signs four-year contract with RCD Mallorca
– 22/09/2021- Scores first league goal for Mallorca
Performance Analysis- Mallorca vs Valencia, 22/10/2022:
– Performed very well in attack, always looked dangerous whilst carrying the ball forward
– Displayed excellent control, composure and finishing ability for his goal
– Smooth, silky dribbler who used his awareness and to beat defenders and win free kicks for his team
– Has beautiful ball control in traffic, can use his on-ball ability to get himself out of sticky situations or when being pressed
– Played on the left wing but wasn’t afraid to occasionally drift further inside and look to get involved when Mallorca had possession on the right flank
– Took charge of long free kicks and corners, which reflects the faith his manager has in his abilities at set pieces
– Displayed his crossing ability with 2/5 completed crosses on the night
– Could have been more accurate when passing the ball (70% passing accuracy)
– Held his position well and looked alert most of the time when Valencia were in possession
In a game where Valencia dominated both possession and field position, Lee Kang-In still managed to impress with the ball at his feet and even scored an impressive winning goal late on. Valencia will definitely regret letting him leave for free last summer, and a performance like this against a former team will surely help Lee kick on and start showing more flashes of his potential this season.
With his recent run of form, Lee will be hoping he has done enough to earn his spot in South Korea’s world cup squad. Personally I believe his versatility in attack will be the key factor to his selection, as he can comfortably fill in on either wing or centrally. In terms of domestic football, Lee is destined for big things. Whilst he does perform well for Mallorca, I believe Lee would thrive in a more creative, free-flowing system. Recent rumours have linked Lee with a move to the likes of Newcastle United or Wolves as soon as January (per Chronicle Live, Fichajes.net) and personally I believe he would thrive at either of those clubs. Whilst he would have more competition for first-team minutes, I think he would fit perfectly at Newcastle, as their playing style under Eddie Howe has allowed fast, silky dribblers Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almirón to perform extremely well this season. He would have to accept a smaller role at first, but there is no reason why he wouldn’t be able to compete and earn his place in their starting 11 in the future.