Kim Nam-il plans a return to K-League

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Kim Nam-il plans a return to K-League

Kim Nam-il of FC Tom Tomsk in the Russian Premier League has hinted recently that he is looking to sign with a K-League club.

The 33-year-old defensive midfielder, who returned to Korea earlier this week after completing the 2010 season with Tom Tomsk, has one year remaining on his contract with the Russian club but intends to look for a Korean club interested in signing him.

Kim is said to be considering Incheon United, which is managed by former national football team manager Huh Jung-moo.

“I have one year remaining on my contract with Tom Tomsk,” Kim said. “My first choice is to remain with the team but I am open to other options. It might not be this winter, but I’m warming up to the idea of playing out the rest of my career in my hometown of Incheon.

“I spoke to Huh over the phone on several occasions when I was in Russia. Playing overseas can get lonely and conversations with Huh were a big boost to my morale.”

Huh chose Kim, then a rookie in the K-League, to be on the U-23 national team that played in the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics. With his strong performance there, Kim earned a spot on the national team for the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup, where he played a key role on the squad that made a surprise run to the semifinals. Kim then became one of the most popular players on the 2002 World Cup squad.

When Huh returned to manage the national team in 2008, he immediately named Kim the captain of the squad. Although Kim did not have a strong performance at the 2010 South Africa World Cup, giving up a penalty kick against Nigeria in the third and final group stage match, he did provide strong leadership and helped Korea get to its first round of 16 on foreign soil.

“Kim Nam-il is a good player,” said Huh. “It will be nice if he can come to Incheon.”

Kim was born on Mui Island in Incheon, where he attended Bupyeongdong Middle School and Bupyeong High School. The veteran is no longer considered at the peak of his career, but he can still draw large crowds in his hometown.

“Over the years, we’ve lost many star players due to our team’s low budget, and as a result, attendance has been down,” said Shin Sang-woo, a member of the Incheon United supporters group. “Supporters of Incheon United are desperately hoping that local talent like Kim Nam-il and Lee Chun-soo will sign with the club.”

Kim made his professional debut with the Chunnam Dragons in 2000 and played for the team until the 2004 season, including a two-year spell with Dutch club SBV Excelsior on a loan from Chunnam. Kim then played for the Suwon Bluewings from 2005 to 2007 before playing for Vissel Kobe in the J-League between 2008 and 2009. Kim signed a two year deal with Tom Tomsk last year.

In order for Kim to sign with Incheon or any other local club, he first has to work out a deal with both the Suwon Bluewings and Tom Tomsk. Kim played for Suwon until 2007 and the Bluewings hold the rights to Kim in Korea. If Kim is to sign on with another club, the new club will have to pay a transfer fee to Suwon and also work out the remaining one year on his contract with Tom Tomsk.


By Lee Jung-chan, Jason Kim [jason@joongang.co.kr]
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