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scouting

K League 2 Scout: Central Midfielders


The K League 2 is home to some of Korea's most talented central midfielders. From rising stars to experienced campaigners, creative sparks to defensive shields, Tomas Marcantonio picks out some of the division's most accomplished and exciting midfield talents.


Star Central Midfielders

Lee Jin-hyeon (Daejeon Hana Citizen)

Part of the Korea U23 team that won gold medals at the 2018 Asian Games, Lee signed from Daegu at the turn of the year and has slotted seamlessly into the Daejeon midfield. The left footer is fourth in the league for key passes (26), with Kim Hyun-uk the only midfielder to register more. Lee also has two assists and a goal to his name for his new club, and he looks likely to add to his four national team caps over the coming years.

Kim Seon-min (Seoul E-Land)


29 year-old Kim Seon-min isn’t the tallest, but his contribution to Seoul E-Land’s impressive start to the season has been immense. Signed from Daegu, Kim is an experienced and composed midfielder who not only dictates the play for the Leopards, but also plays a vital part in shielding the defence. Kim ranks in the top five midfielders in the league for interceptions, dispossessions, and acquisitions.

Maeng Sung-ung (FC Anyang)


The future looks bright indeed for the 23 year-old, who is statistically one of the best midfielders in the league in terms of defensive contributions. Maeng leads the league for acquisitions (152) and dispossessions (87), and also ranks highly for interceptions and ground duels, highlighting his ability to break up opposition play. Now in his third year with Anyang, Korean U23 international Maeng is likely to attract interest from bigger clubs if he continues to thrive at the heart of Anyang’s midfield.

Jang Hyeok-jin (Gyeongnam FC)


Jang has made more passes than any other player in the division, averaging 57.5 passes per game, with an impressive pass success rate of 86.4%. Although he is yet to open his goalscoring account for Gyeongnam, he is one of Korea’s most consistent assistors; he currently sits 17th in the K League all-time rankings for assists with 46, ahead of the likes of Yoon Bit-garam, Cesinha, and Hong Chul. Although Gyeongnam have had a disappointing start to 2021, Jang has been as reliable as ever.

Kim Jin-kyu (Busan IPark)


Playmaker Kim has been one of Busan’s most consistent performers so far this season. Capable of playing deep or in the hole behind the front line, Kim is a classy player with good vision and a deft touch. Among midfielders in the league, Kim ranks highly for interceptions, key passes, and ground duels. Still a regular for the Korea U23s, and a step up to the full national team isn’t out of the question for a midfielder who looks a step above most of those in the second division.

Lee Sang-min (Ansan Greeners)


After four years based in Suwon (with spells at both Bluewings and Suwon FC) 26 year-old Lee had never been a regular starter before this season, but he has played every minute for Ansan so far in 2021. Lee is the set-piece taker and playmaker for the Green Wolves, and his all-round contributions to the team have been significant. He has made the weekly Best XI three times and has contributed three assists, and his defensive numbers are among the best in the division for central midfielders.

Kim Hyeon-wook (Jeonnam Dragons)


Kim leads the division for key passes (30), and has made the weekly Best XI four times already this season. He put in a match-winning performance against Gimcheon last month, scoring both of Jeonnam’s goals in a 2-1 win. Operating on the left side of a midfield three, Kim is often given license to drift out wide and swing in crosses from the flank. At 160cm, he is one of the shortest midfielders in the league, but his left foot has been a vital source of Jeonnam’s creativity so far this year.

Park Jin-seop (Daejeon Hana Citizen)


With two goals and two assists already this season, the Daejeon captain has more goal involvements than any other central midfielder in the division. He also leads the league for interceptions among midfielders. Although primarily a midfielder, Park has also filled in at centre back on occasion this season.

Jang Yun-ho (Seoul E-Land)


The former Jeonbuk midfielder made his move to Seoul permanent this season after impressing on loan last year. Another Korean youth international, Jang has made the weekly Best XI twice already this season. He has made 10 key passes so far this year, with one goal and one assist to his name.

Statistics

The following tables display the rankings of key contributions from players in the K League 2 so far in 2021. The rankings consist of any K League 2 players who play most often central midfield.

All statistics from data.kleague.com, correct as of 12 May 2021.


Honourable Mentions

Park Se-jik (Chungnam Asan) – The 31 year-old veteran has registered consistent numbers for Asan this season, with two assists and 15 key passes to his name alongside solid defensive contributions.

Hwang Ki-wook and Lee Hoo-gwon (Jeonnam Dragons) – 24 year-old Hwang was a former regular for the Korean youth teams, and is now part of a solid Jeonnam midfield unit alongside Lee, a defensive midfielder who had a journeyman career before settling in Gwangyang. 

Kim Hyeon-tae (Ansan Greeners) – Like Lee Sang-min, Kim has started every game so far for Ansan.

Lee Hyeon-sik and Edinho (Daejeon Hana Citizen) – A former regular for Gangwon FC, Lee Hyeon-sik has played in all but one game for Daejeon so far this season. Edinho, an attacking midfielder with two goals and 13 key passes to his name, is also sometimes utilised in the front line. 

Park Yong-woo and Jung Hyeon-cheol (Gimcheon Sangmu) – Composed passer Park has only just returned to the side after recovering from injury, and is expected to return to the K League 1 with Ulsan Hyundai in June. Defensive midfielder Jung meanwhile has become a regular since joining from FC Seoul. 

Song Hong-min (Bucheon 1995) – Bucheon haven’t had many shining lights so far this season, but Song has played more minutes than most at the heart of midfield, and no midfielder in the league has completed more tackles (8). 

Park Jong-woo (Busan IPark) - One of the league’s most combative defensive midfielders. He was the K League 1’s top tackler last season, but is currently out injured and isn’t expected to return until late summer. 

Hong Chang-beom (FC Anyang) – The 22 year-old has been a regular alongside Maeng Sung-ung for Anyang, has already picked up five yellow cards in his eight pro appearances.


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