This winter, a player who has been busy with the success of Klinsmann’s Asian Cup, is sweating toward a new history of the K League.
Ju Min-gyu (34), who is nicknamed “the pride of a native striker,” is the hero. As the top scorer in the K-League 1 last year, he is committed to preventing his rivals from challenging him again this year.꽁머니지급
Before heading home from Kagoshima, Japan, on the 4th, Joo Min-kyu smiled broadly, saying, “There was no record of a domestic player being the top scorer three times,” adding, “It’s always motivating me to endure tough winter training.”
■ “You should be the top scorer three times”
The reason why Joo Min-kyu dreams of a new history is that he has already made achievements incomparable to existing players.
Joo Min-kyu scored a whopping 56 goals over the past three years. He has been named the top scorer twice (2021, 2023) while not missing the position of the most goals scored every year.
The only player that Joo Min-gyu needs to overcome is Dejan Hana, who has been the top scorer for three consecutive years (2011-2013). “It would be a great honor to be on top of the scoring list three times like Dejan,” Joo said. “I think it will be helpful for me to grow as a player and live my life in the future.”
Whether Joo Min-kyu will become the top scorer has become even more exciting with the emergence of his big name. Jesse Lingard (32), a former Manchester United player in the English Premier League (EPL), is about to join FC Seoul as he boarded a flight to Korea on Saturday. “I have high expectations for Lingard to come. I’ve always liked him. He has a great career, so I want to meet him in person. Still, he won’t be a competitor for the top scorer.”
■The top scorer’s transformation is innocent, “If it’s to win.”
As much as he dreams of a new history, he is not afraid of bone-breaking changes. While recuperating his performance last year, he affirmed, “I have changed again.” This is because he has reduced his greed for goals and boosted his ability to score goals. As evidenced by the fact that Joo Min-kyu has scored 17 goals for two consecutive years since 2022, the number of shots has significantly decreased.
“I have a habit of checking my data every year at the end of the season and supplementing it,” he said. “Last year, the number of shots decreased to 67. Compared to the 95 shots I had in 2022, this is a significant drop.”
The fact that Joo Min-gyu reduced the number of shots meant that he gave up to his teammates unless he had a clear scoring opportunity. It was all the more remarkable amid the difficulties in sharing the opportunity to play with Martin Adam. “I thought that if I had greedier, I would have scored more goals. However, if I had done so, I would not have lifted the trophy that I wanted,” he stressed.
Joo Min-gyu also foreshadowed another change this year. He has decided to break the stereotype that a striker only needs to play in front of the goal. Ulsan coach Hong Myung-bo is learning how to play regardless of position while ordering dynamic soccer. While Joo Min-gyu was away from the goal, he was seen at a practice game where new midfielder Kelvin and defender Shim Sang-min attempted to shoot.
“Ulsan and I don’t know what to eat. If we think about the residents’ regulations for 2023, we will be confused,” said Joo Min-kyu.
If Joo Min-kyu successfully changes his goal as he predicted, Ulsan will be able to surpass three consecutive K-League 1 titles and advance to the championship of the Asian Champions League (ACL). Winning the ALC this season is also a shortcut to receiving invitation for the 2025 Club World Cup. “It is an enviable opportunity for others to have a dream to participate in a new club World Cup with 32 teams,” Joo Min-kyu said. “I will run with a happy dream again this year.”