Center back Kim Ji-soo (19-Seongnam FC), born in 2004, is close to joining the English Premier League (EPL).
Seongnam Mayor Shin Sang-jin, owner of 먹튀검증 Seongnam FC, announced on social media (SNS) on Thursday that “Kim Ji-soo will leave the country next week to join Brentford”. This is the so-called ‘owner’s official’ (owner + official). It is unusual for the owner to announce a player transfer directly.
Shin’s announcement came shortly after a transfer-related conversation with Kim Ji-soo in Chadam earlier in the day. Kim met with Shin shortly after returning home from the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2023. The player’s side explained the next steps in the event of a finalized deal, but Shin announced Kim Ji-soo’s departure first, subject to the completion of negotiations.
According to the club, Kim’s departure date is undetermined. Negotiations are still ongoing, with the club’s lawyers reviewing documents. However, since Brentford has offered a buyout (transfer allowance), the club cannot refuse the transfer. As soon as the documents are reviewed, a date will be set for his departure. As a result, he will leave the country next week, as announced by the club.
Brentford already tried to sign Kim Ji-soo last month. “We have received an official letter from Brentford regarding the transfer, and the transfer fee meets the buyout included in the contract,” a club official said. The buyout was reportedly valued at $700,000 ($900 million). Negotiations were slow to progress as Kim was out of the country for the U-20 World Cup, but really picked up steam after the tournament. Rather than trying to convince Kim to stay, the club decided to help him make the move for the greater good. Seongnam coach Lee Ki-hyung also reportedly agreed to the transfer for the sake of the development of Korean soccer.
The issue of work permits to enter the EPL has also reportedly been resolved. The work permit rules were recently changed, and the Korea Football Association and the Korean Professional Football Association also sent letters of recommendation in the name of the president and governor, respectively. Failure to resolve the work permit issue would have resulted in a loan move to a European minor league after signing with Brentford, but now the player can go straight to the EPL.
Barring any sudden changes, Kim will sign with Brentford. He will become the 16th South Korean player to ever play in the EPL, and the seventh to go straight from the K League to the EPL. He is only the second Korean teenager to join the EPL after Jung Sang-bin (Minnesota United). However, after joining Wolverhampton from Suwon Samsung, he was immediately loaned to Grasshopper (Switzerland) before joining Minnesota. Kim Ji-soo will become the first teenager to play in an EPL match.
The 5-foot-9-inch-83-kilogram defender made his professional debut with Seongnam U-18 team Pungseng Go, signing his first semi-professional contract with the club. Last year, at the age of 17 years, 4 months, and 20 days, he became the youngest debutant in K League 1 history. Despite his lack of A-team experience and only being in his second year as a professional, he has been highly touted for his potential. Most recently, he played in every game at the U-20 World Cup and proved to be a key player in Kim Eun-joong’s back four. If Kim makes it to the EPL, Korean soccer will have another big-league center back in Kim Min-jae.