When Napoli sold centre half Kalidou Koulibaly to Chelsea last summer, there were fears over how the Serie A side could possibly replace their long-serving defensive star. Those fears, it turns out, were overstated.
Koulibaly and new club Chelsea have struggled while Napoli and new centre half Kim Min-jae have excelled, with the Azzurri running away at the front of the Serie A pack and a full 19 points clear of second-place Lazio.
Meanwhile, Kim, who they signed from Fenerbahche for around €20M last summer, has been a standout—so much so that there’s chatter that the 26-year-old could be set to make a big money move after just one year.
According to CalcioNapoli, Kim has a release clause of around €70M if Napoli qualify for next season’s Champions League and is on relatively modest wages given this is only his second year in European football.
Kim started with semi-pro Gyeongju in Korea before making the switch to Jeonbuk at the relatively late age of 20. A few years later spent three years with Beijing Guoan in China before moving to Fenerbahce in 2021.
It’s an unusual path to stardom in European football, with Kim having a somewhat limited track record in top leagues but also potentially less wear and tear on his body than most players entering their prime years.
Realistically, that release clause seems steep, but Napoli do look a better side with Kim anchonring their backline than they did last year with Koulibaly, and it will be interesting to see what’s next for the South Korean.
Along with Liverpool’s supposed interest, Napoli are said to be trying to get Kim on an improved deal that would also remove his release clause while Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain have also been linked.