South Korea coach Juergen Klinsmann has called on Lee Kang-in to keep his feet on the ground as the Paris Saint-Germain playmaker continues his emergence as the country’s next great hope.
Lee was given a rousing reception when he scored twice for the Koreans in a 4-0 friendly win over Tunisia in Seoul on Friday as he capped a month that also saw the 22-year-old help his country retain the gold medal at the Asian Games in China.
“It’s just a joy to work with him because he’s always in a good mood, he’s always smiling, but he’s also hungry,” Klinsmann said.
“This is what he needs to be. It’s not easy for Kang-in to stay hungry because here, he’s getting treated like a pop star, which is not good because a pop star doesn’t score goals.
“He has to stay humble. He has to stay focused. He has to work hard and fight.”
Lee has been rated as one of the country’s most promising prospects since moving to Spain to join Valencia’s academy as a child, eventually playing 62 times for the La Liga outfit before a switch to Real Mallorca in 2021.
He featured four times – three as a substitute – for Korea at the World Cup finals last year and in the summer, signed for Paris Saint-Germain in a deal worth 22 million euros.
Lee played a key role in South Korea’s Asian Games gold medal win earlier this month and, crucially for the further development of his career in Europe, that victory has earned him an exemption from the country’s mandatory military service.
“Every time he will come back to Korea, there will be I don’t know how many people screaming for him,” Klinsmann said.
“When a club like Paris Saint-Germain takes a player from Korea, it means that it’s a very special player. Kang-in is hugely talented.
“He will now start to learn from top players in Paris what it means to play in the Champions League and also what it means to play under the pressure of winning titles.”