Why ‘Pohang’s Living Witness’ Kim Ki-Dong is leaving for SeoulAfter a year of farming, professional soccer is buzzing with transfer rumors of a manager, not a player.
The news that Pohang Steelers’ iconic coach Kim Ki-dong (52-photo) will take the helm of FC Seoul (exclusively reported by Sports Illustrated on the 11th) has already been finalized. It is expected to be officially announced on the 13th at the earliest.
A player from Seoul said, “I understand that the coach has said ‘good luck in the future’ to some of the players.”
Pohang also rushed to find a replacement, finalizing the appointment of another Pohang legend, Park Tae-ha, as technical director of the professional football league.
“In the professional arena, it’s natural for leaders to seek change,” said a Pohang official, explaining, “When Kim signed a three-year contract last year, there was a condition that if a domestic or foreign club offered better terms than us, we would release him without penalty.”
This is disappointing for Pohang fans, who had hoped that Kim would have a long tenure at the helm like Diego Simeone of Atletico Madrid in Spain.
Simeone, a former Atletico Madrid coach, is a mythical figure who broke the Real Madrid-Barcelona rivalry by taking the helm in 2011. Kim, who retired from Pohang, was also expected to break the virtual monopoly of ‘Hyundai’ at the top.
Indeed, Kim was riding a similar wave this year, as Pohang not only finished second in the K League 1, but also won the Korean Football Association (FA) Cup.
However, the situation was too different for Kim to follow Simeone’s path in Pohang. At least Simeone has the hope of bringing in big names every year, whereas Pohang has repeatedly sold the big names the club has developed.
Song Min-gyu’s departure to Jeonbuk, as well as the transfers of Ilyuchenko, Kim Seung-dae, and others that Kim didn’t even know about, are evidence of this. Unlike this year, when the team won the championship, next year they will have to prepare for a cold winter. The loss of Park Seung-wook (enlisted), Shim Sang-min and Kim Yong-hwan (free agents) from the defense line, which is the foundation of the team’s performance, is a big burden.
The fact that the evaluations surrounding Kim are limited to “value-for-money” results also prompted the move to Seoul. Only if he can do better than this while coaching the best players will he be able to challenge the dream of every coach, which is to take charge of the national team. It would be great if he could achieve such results in Pohang, but the reality was clearly different.
The reaction on the soccer field has been positive. In fact, the reviews surrounding Kim have been even better for the teams that have played against him.
Gwangju coach Lee Jung-hyo, one of the hottest commodities in K League 1 this year, admitted, “(Kim Ki-dong) is not a normal coach, but when I respond, he responds.”
Chinese side Wuhan Shandong, whom Pohang faced in the group stage of the Asian Champions League (ACL), reportedly approached Kim on two occasions. It’s fair to say that Kim and Pohang parted ways at the best possible time.