Are top Korean goalkeepers headed to Europe?

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Are top Korean goalkeepers headed to Europe?


Jung Sung-ryong / Kim Jin-hyeon

Koreans have already seen their countrymen play in top European football leagues - Park Ji-sung and Lee Chung-yong, who play in England, are good examples. But there has not yet been a Korean goalkeeper to stand on a pitch in Europe.

Now, some are saying it’s time for Korean goalkeepers to move on to more challenging and high-profile leagues on that continent but history shows that it has been tough for Asian goalkeepers to do just that.

For example, Japanese goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi, who joined the English club Portsmouth FC in 2001, only played 12 games in his two years with the club.

He later moved to Danish club FC Nordsjaelland, but the former Japanese national team player appeared in only eight games in two seasons.

That shouldn’t discourage Korean goalkeepers, said Kim Hyun-tae, the Korean national football team goalkeeping coach.

He believes there are at least two Korean goalkeepers who could survive in European competition. The 49-year-old coach said that Jung Sung-ryong and Kim Jin-hyeon have a good shot at successfully making the jump.

Jung, who plays for the K-League’s Suwon Samsung Bluewings, is currently the starting goalkeeper for the national team.

The 26-year-old played in all four of the national team’s games in the 2010 World Cup, when Korea reached the round of 16.

He has appeared in 32 games for the national team.

“If you are only talking about skill, Jung Sung-ryong is the favorite [to go Europe],” Kim said to Ilgan Sports. “I heard Jung potentially had an opportunity to play in Europe, but unfortunately couldn’t get a final deal.”

After Jung’s contract with Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma expired in January, his name was linked to several English clubs, but he wasn’t offered a contract. The goalkeeper later signed a five-year deal with the Bluewings.

Jung may be the obvious pick when it comes to predicting who might follow Park Ji-sung and Lee Chung-yong to the Premier League because he is regarded as one of top goalkeepers in the country today but coach Kim said Kim Jin-hyeon, who currently plays for Japanese club Cerezo Osaka, could also excel in the European theater.

Kim is the first Korean goalkeeper to ever play abroad. The 24-year-old established himself as the team’s first choice goalkeeper last year and has been consistent in the role.

The former U-20 national team player was included in the 2011 Asian Cup squad but did not make an appearance during the tournament.

Coach Kim, though, said he sees great potential in the young goalkeeper, who he said always shows a positive attitude and pushes himself to be a better player.

“I remember when I was teaching a new training method on the national team, Kim always had a good attitude,” Kim Hyun-tae said. “It seems he doesn’t get enough training from their club’s coaches, so that may be the reason [why he pushes himself more].”

Kim Jin-hyeon said he chose playing in Japan over Korea because he wanted to be the first goalkeeper to play outside the country.

And if he continues to impress, his next stop could be Europe.

By Kim Min-gyu, Joo Kyung-don []

관련 한글기사[일간스포츠]

한국인 골키퍼의 유럽 빅리그 진출 가능성은?

벨기에 리에르세 SK에서 뛰고 있는 일본 대표팀 골키퍼 가와시마 에이지(28)의 잉글랜드 진출이 가시화되고 있다. 프리미어리그 웨스트브롬위치가 영입 추진중이라는 보도에 이어 풀럼도 움직이고 있다는 소식이 들렸다. 여기서 의문이 생긴다. 한국인 골키퍼의 유럽 빅리그 진출은 가능할까.

사실 아시아 선수가 유럽의 빅리그에서 주전 골키퍼로 활약한다는 것은 쉽지 않은 일이다. 전 일본 대표팀 출신인 가와구치 요시카쓰는 2001년 포츠머스에 입단했으나 주전 경쟁에서 밀려 덴마크 리그로 무대를 옮겼다. 오만 대표팀 수문장 알리 알 합시도 볼턴에서는 좀처럼 기회를 잡지 못하다 위건으로 임대된 뒤에야 힘겹게 기회를 얻었다.

김현태 대표팀 골키퍼 코치는 “기량으로는 현재 정성룡(수원)이 가장 낫다. 지난 시즌이 끝난 뒤에도 기회가 있었는데 이루지는 못 한 것으로 알고 있다. 현재로서는 김진현이 가능성이 높다고 본다”고 말했다. 김 코치가 김진현(세레소 오사카)의 성공을 점친 이유는 무엇일까.

첫 번째 이유는 ‘언어’다. 김진현은 동국대를 졸업한 뒤 일본으로 건너가 2년 만에 주전 자리를 꿰찼다. 기량도 기량이지만 일본어 실력도 한몫 했다. 김 코치는 “일본에 가서 경기를 지켜보고 식사도 같이 했는데 진현이 일본어 실력이 뛰어나더라. 본인이 나름대로 공부를 열심히 한 모양”이라며 “수비수들과 커뮤니케이션이 필요한 만큼 골키퍼의 언어 구사 능력도 중요하다”고 덧붙였다.

두 번째 이유는 적극성이다. 김 코치는 “진현이가 소속팀 내에서는 훈련이 쉽지 않아 보였다. 감독은 브라질 감독이지만 코치들은 일본인이라 아무래도 집중 훈련이 어려운 듯 했다”며 “대표팀에서도 훈련법을 새롭게 익혔는데 적극적인 태도였다”고 덧붙였다.

김진현이 K리그 대신 일본 진출을 선언한 이유 중 하나가 ‘최초’라는 것이었다. 한국인 골키퍼 최초로 유럽 빅리그에서 뛰는 것이 그의 다음 목표다.

김효경 기자 []
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