“KIM’s hidden weaknesses exposed”…Napoli struggle on the counter-attack, miss ‘Ballon d’Or candidate’ Kim Min-jae

September 9, 2023 | by

Italian Serie A champions SSC Napoli felt the need to fill the void left by Kim Min-jae (Bayern Munich) after he left the club.

“Giovanni Improtta, who played for Napoli in the past, claimed that Kim Min-jae exposed weaknesses that were hidden,” Italian media outlet Il Napoli Online reported on September 9 (KST).

Napoli, who reached the top of Serie A for the first time in 33 years last season, suffered their first defeat in three league games since the start of the 2023/24 season. They lost 1-2 to Lazio in the third round of the league on March 3 at home at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

After conceding the opening goal, Napoli equalized shortly afterward through Polish midfielder Piotr Zielinski, but suffered their first defeat of the season seven minutes into the second half when Lazio regained the lead through newly signed Japanese midfielder Daichi Kamada.

Napoli, who had won two straight league games after opening the season, were unable to make it three in a row with the loss to Lazio. Despite being at home, Lazio is a Serie A powerhouse that finished second in the league last season, so the loss was not surprising, but Italian Improtta, a former Napoli youth player who was a star midfielder for the club in the 1960s and ’70s, pointed out some of the problems Napoli had compared to last season.

Napoli enjoyed a successful year last season as they were crowned Serie A champions, but they quickly parted ways with some of their key players. First, the best defender in Serie A and a key part of Napoli’s defense, Kim Min-jae, left for German Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich. Then, Luciano Spalletti, the man who led the team to the title, departed, and Rudi Garcia took over the reins at Napoli.

Of course, a number of key players remain, including Hvitsa Kvarachelia, Victor Osimhen, and Stanislav Lobotka, but Improtta believes that Kim’s departure has brought to the surface some of Napoli’s problems that were not apparent last season.

Speaking on Italian radio’s Punto Nuovo, Improtta said, “Napoli didn’t do many things right against Lazio. “These weaknesses were already there under Spalletti, and Kim Min-jae hid them with his athleticism and speed, but now they’ve been exposed,” he explained.

“Napoli didn’t play a bad game, but it all came out in the second half against Lazio,” he said, adding, “They had too much open space, which should raise alarms.”

Last season, Napoli played an attacking style of football with a high defensive line, relying on Kim Min-jae’s wide radius of action, but with Kim’s departure and the inability to find a suitable replacement, the high defensive line actually gave opponents good counter-attacking opportunities.

The defender Napoli brought in after Kim Min-jae’s departure is Nathan, a young center back born in 2001 who was brought in from Brazilian first division side Red Bull Bragançinho. He cost €10 million (approximately $14.3 billion) and was given the number 3 shirt that Kim wore until last season.

After inheriting the number, Natan was seen as a possible replacement for Kim, but he has yet to make his official Napoli debut as he has been on the bench for all three league games since joining the club. Napoli have used Juan Jeuse and Amir Rahmani as their starting center back pairing this season, both of whom have been criticized by Improvata for performing somewhat less well than they did when playing alongside Kim Min-jae.

It will take a little longer for Napoli to build a solid defense, as the process of replacing Kim won’t be easy. Kim was one of the best defenders in the Italian Serie A last season and was recently nominated for the 2023 Ballon d’Or.

France Football, the French soccer publication that organizes the Ballon d’Or, announced the 30 finalists for the 2023 Ballon d’Or on July 7. Kim Min-jae, who played a key role in Napoli’s defense last season and led the club to its first league title in 33 years, is the only Asian player on the list. 메이저사이트

France’s L’Equipe outlined the reasons behind his nomination, saying, “Kiminjae Kim was selected as one of the 30 finalists for the Ballon d’Or because he made his predecessor, Kalidou Koulibaly, forget with his aerial athleticism and first-time build-up ability at Napoli before joining Bayern Munich this summer.”

His performances in Serie A with Napoli last season earned him a spot in the jersey of one of the best clubs in the world. Since joining the Bavarians, the midfielder has quickly established himself as a regular starter, starting the first three league games of the season and helping the Bavarians to three consecutive wins, helping them to a 12th consecutive league title.


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