When Brentford made the decision to shut down their youth academy and move to a “B Team” model, they were widely criticised.
Giving youth a chance is a mantra that is well-respected in the game but Brentford were shutting down the supply factory altogether. But, their reasoning made sense.
The best youth talents were snapped up by “bigger fish” and Brentford were left with a few thousand in compensation, a meagre return on investment in running a youth academy.
However, what has transpired instead is why Brentford are recognised as one of the smartest clubs in the world.
The B Team regularly unearths “discarded” or “undervalued” players from all over the world, hones their craft, and gives them a pathway to the first team.
South Korean defensive prodigy Kim Ji-Soo is set to be the latest from a revolutionary pathway which has secured Brentford’s status as a bonafide PL club.
Who is Kim Ji-Soo (김지수)?
Kim Ji-Soo is an 18-year-old centre-back hailing from South Korea who joined Brentford from Seongnam FC back in his country.
Ever since breaking onto the scene, Kim has been breaking records. He was the club’s first semi-pro player, as Seongnam raced against other clubs to tie him to their team.
Kim Ji-Soo was also the youngest registered player in the league that season in 2022. He made 19 appearances in his debut season and despite being just 17, looked imperious.
The rise of a wonderkid in South Korea alerted the clubs to his availability but Kim made the smart move.
Amid a lot of interest in his services, he chose to move to Brentford on a 4+1 year deal, and went straight into their B Team.
Now, Brentford B are not a professional outfit, so it is difficult to track his stats for them, but he will undoubtedly play a key part for the team as he is being groomed to take on a key role in the first team in the future.
For now, Kim regularly trains with the first team to give him a taste of life in English football. After initially being a shy and reserved character, he has started to come into his own and impress everybody.
Style of play
Since the emergence of Kim Min-Jae as a world-class force in defence, it was always inevitable that any upcoming South Korean defender would be compared to the Bayern Munich giant.
However, for Kim Ji-Soo, that comparison actually makes a lot of sense.
The Brentford B player is of similar height to Min-Jae, with both players being towering presences at 6’3″. Just like his more esteemed national teammate, Ji-Soo is extremely quick off the bat and deceptively agile with the ball at his feet.
Those qualities help him evade the oncoming press from opposition defenders while playing out from the back.
However, what comes after evading the press is what makes him so special. Kim Ji-Soo is wise beyond his years when it comes to his ability with the ball.
He can pick out long passes, diagonals, and switches of play with remarkable ease and more often than not, they always find their target.
His decision-making, in regards to when to pass, who to pass to, when to evade the press, or lunge into tackles belies his tender age.
Those are intangibles that are hard to teach and the fact that he already has a head-start in those areas means that his step-up to senior football will be more seamless than most.
Sung-Mo Lee, a South Korean sports journalist, talked to Brentford when Ji-Soo was called up to the senior international team for the first time and he had glowing praise for the youngster-
“He has similar ability to Kim Min-jae and he has the ability to press from the back. He is not only a great defender, but he can contribute to the build-up play from the back and he can deliver skilful and accurate long passes.
“Overall, he has such a high potential, and we could all feel that when we watched him play. It’s all about how he will make it through at Brentford.”
Ji-Soo Kim at Brentford
For the player, there aren’t many destinations better than Brentford. The club, unlike many in English football, don’t have an extreme reliance on English players, so the demographic of players at the club is very diverse.
It has helped the South Korean to adapt easily as he doesn’t have to break into any difficult dressing room groups.
On the pitch, he will gain experience against seasoned pros instead of kids due to the club’s B-team model of fixtures.
South Korea head coach Jurgen Klinsmann endorsed the player’s move to Brentford as well, saying in the same interview linked above-
“He’s in the best hands at Brentford with the way they develop young players. He’s done very well in training. At the beginning he was a bit shy, which I expect, but after two or three days he came out of his shell and it’s been a lot of fun to work with him.”
In addition, he called him “a very bright player”, which is understandable, since the current South Korean defensive pairing consists of a 33-year-old Kim Young-Gwon alongside Kim Min-Jae.
In a few years, Ji-Soon Kim can expect to play alongside his idol in Kim Min-Jae, while starring for Brentford at the Premier League level.
After Son Heung-Min, the South Koreans are soon getting a new star to throw their weight behind.