Football: Koreans urge 'Monster' Kim to choose Watford over Beijing

South Korea's defender Kim Min-jae (right) celebrates after scoring a goal during the 2019 AFC Asian Cup group C football match between South Korea and China on Jan 16, 2019.
South Korea's defender Kim Min-jae (right) celebrates after scoring a goal during the 2019 AFC Asian Cup group C football match between South Korea and China on Jan 16, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

ABU DHABI (AFP) - South Korea defender Kim Min-jae's goal-scoring exploits at the Asian Cup have not gone unnoticed overseas, but teammates are urging him to follow Son Heung-min to England rather than go to China.

The 22-year-old centre-back, nicknamed "Monster", has burnished his reputation as one of the region's hottest prospects, scoring twice and proving formidable at the back as South Korea reached the quarter-finals.

Baek Sung-kwon, general manager of his current club Jeonbuk Motors, confirmed a bid from Premier League club Watford which is reported to be around US$8 million (S$10.9 million).

Beijing Guoan, who finished the 2018 Chinese Super League season in fourth, are also in the hunt but so far, Kim is keeping his cards close to his chest.

"Until now, I want to focus only on the Asian Cup," he said on Thursday (Jan 24).

"I just want to talk about getting good results and so, at the moment, I haven't got anything to say about (a transfer).

"I just want to focus on helping the team not concede any goals."

Kim is already an established international, but missed the 2018 World Cup through injury.

A move to Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League proved the making of Kim's celebrated teammate Son, while Ki Sung-yueng and ex-Manchester United star Park Ji-sung have also prospered in England.

And while Kim may be staying silent, his Chinese-based teammates at the Asian Cup have been happy to give their advice - and they are urging him to take the plunge in England.

"If Min-jae has big ambitions then it will be better for him to play on a bigger stage," said his central defence partner Kim Young-gwon, who has won two Asian Champions League titles and six Chinese championships with China's Guangzhou Evergrande.

"Of course, China is good but I think it would be better for him to play on the bigger stage that is Europe."

Kwon Kyung-won, who also plays in the Chinese Super League for Tianjin, gave similar advice.

"I thought that he was going to China but then I heard good news and I hope he can make the better choice," said Kwon.

The players were repeating the sentiment expressed on social media back in Korea as fans urged Kim, whose nickname stems from his powerful physique, to choose England.

Since moving to Tottenham Hotspur in 2015, Son has turned into a global star, becoming the highest-scoring Asian player in Premier League history and also shining in the Champions League.

However, the Chinese Super League is also attractive to Asian players because of its high wages and proximity to home.