The popularity of “Golden Boy” Lee Kang-in, 22, who led mid-table RCD Mallorca to a top 10 finish in the Spanish Primera Liga, was unimaginable. As he walked through the departure gate at Incheon International Airport and into his car, he was mobbed by fans on his way home, and even his bodyguards couldn’t keep up.
Lee returned home through Incheon International Airport on the afternoon of July 7. He was dressed casually in a blue T-shirt with a pink hat, but the fans who came to see him were enthusiastic. Lee, who waved leisurely when he first came out, was surrounded by bodyguards as he made his way to the parking lot after the divider disappeared.
It was a season to remember. After moving to Mallorca from Valencia last year and scoring one goal and providing three assists in 34 games, Lee has really exploded with potential this season once he’s settled in. With six goals and six assists in La Liga alone, he recorded the most offensive points in his professional career and was named the official Man of the Match (MOM) six times.
He was indispensable for Mallorca. This season, Lee has played 2843 minutes in 36 league games, and his excellent kicking ability has allowed him to take charge of many set-piece situations. In on-the-ball situations, he was also the focal point of the offense, completing 1.5 key passes and 2.5 successful dribbles per game according to FútbolScore.com.
In particular, he has become one of the best dribblers in Europe. His 90 total dribble breaks are the most in La Liga behind only Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid – 112). When expanded to all five European leagues, he was fourth behind Lionel Messi (PSG – 102) and Jeremy Dockoo (Stade Rennes – 96), and his dribbling success rate alone was the highest among them at 67%.
As a result, Mallorca finished the 2022-2023 season in ninth place in the league with 14 wins, eight draws and 16 defeats and 50 points. This is the second consecutive season that Mallorca has finished in the top 10 of the league, and the first time in 11 years since the 2011-2012 season 스포츠토토.
Lee has also made some significant marks in Korean soccer history. Lee’s double-digit offensive points in a season and multiple goals in a game are the first for a South Korean player. In particular, Lee’s first multi-goal game, against Getafe on April 24, marked the beginning of his star-making career, as he scored a goal after a 65-meter solo dribble on a counterattack in second-half stoppage time. After the game, the La Liga secretariat named Lee the MVP of the match and called him the “architect of victory,” while the Mallorca club called him King.
It’s no surprise that Spanish media outlets have been lavishing praise on Lee as the season comes to a close, as he has been the centerpiece of a perennial mid-table team, Mallorca. For example, on the first day of the season, Occhiadario said of Lee, “He was Mallorca’s greatest player of the last decade. When the stadium lights go out after the final game of La Liga, the magic he showed will disappear.” Lee has been receiving offers from top clubs such as Atletico Madrid (Spain), Manchester United, Newcastle, Aston Villa, Burnley, Brighton & Hove Albion (England), AC Milan, and Napoli (Italy).
In South Korea, there is also a frenzy around Lee Kang-in. After being overlooked in the early days of Bento’s reign, Lee gradually rose through the ranks and helped South Korea reach the round of 16, including assisting on Cho Kyu-sung’s goal in the second group game against Ghana. Since then, the small Spanish city of Majorca has been flooded with Korean tourists looking for Lee Kang-in. The La Liga secretariat adjusted Mallorca’s time zone to daylight hours to accommodate the Korean time zone, much to the displeasure of Mallorca coach Javier Aguirre.
With all of his club commitments wrapped up, Lee will now take part in the A-League in Korea in June. The South Korean national team, led by Jürgen Klinsmann, will be called up on the 12th and will face Peru (Busan) on the 16th and El Salvador (Daejeon) on the 20th.