Singapore Premier League to lose its highest-paid player Kim Shin-wook
Just over a year after becoming the Singapore Premier League’s (SPL) highest-paid player, former South Korea international Kim Shin-wook’s stint with the Lion City Sailors has come to a premature end.
On Monday, the Sailors announced that they had reached a mutual agreement to part ways with the 34-year-old forward.
The Sailors declined to comment on the terms of the agreement but Kim’s departure comes 14 months into a three-year deal, which is understood to be worth more than $3 million.
In a statement issued by the club, Kim thanked the fans, his teammates and Sailors staff for their help during his time in Singapore.
He added: “I feel it is the right time for me to explore some new opportunities to continue challenging myself. I have enjoyed my time as a Sailor and I wish the team nothing but the best in the season ahead. I will be continuing to support Sailors as always.”
The 1.96m striker, who scored 16 goals in 56 appearances for his country and featured at the 2014 and 2018 World Cups, is close to agreeing a move to Hong Kong Premier League side Kitchee SC, according to media reports.
Kim is the latest highly paid Sailor to leave the club after a disappointing 2022 season, in which the big spenders lost the SPL title to Albirex Niigata and crashed out of the Singapore Cup at the group stage.
The exodus began in November 2022, when the club announced the departure of six players, including Hassan Sunny (now with Albirex), Gabriel Quak, Shahdan Sulaiman (both Hougang United) and Faris Ramli (Tampines Rovers), who were believed to be among the highest local earners at the club.
A host of backroom staff also departed and chief executive Chew Chun-Liang also left the club in December.
Earlier in January, Singapore midfielder Song Ui-young also announced that he was moving out of his “comfort zone” to pursue new challenges with Thai League 1 side Nongbua Pitchaya.
Sailors owners Sea Limited, Singapore’s largest consumer Internet company, has since late-2022 been buffeted by a perfect storm of an economic slowdown, inflation, increasing competition and a broader tech sell-off. The parent of e-commerce giant Shopee and gaming firm Garena has suffered a US$150 billion plunge in its value since late 2021 and there has been at least three rounds of layoffs at Shopee’s local and international offices.
While Kim’s record of 24 goals in 35 appearances for the Sailors in all competitions makes for good reading on paper, he failed to impress fans here due to his lack of mobility up front.
The former K. League and Asian Champions League (ACL) winner was brought in for his experience at the top tier of Asian football, but started only two of the Sailors’ six matches during their ACL debut in 2022 and failed to score.
The Sailors’ December signing of reigning SPL Player of the Year Kodai Tanaka, who racked up 33 goals and 11 assists for Albirex in 2022, was the first sign that Kim’s time was up.
The 23-year-old Japanese striker’s arrival meant that there were five foreigners on the Sailors’ books, more than the SPL quota of four. Their other imports are centre-back Pedro Henrique, playmaker Diego Lopes and winger Maxime Lestienne.
Sailors captain Hariss Harun said of Kim: “He was a consummate professional, a good presence in the dressing room, and a fighter out on the pitch. We wish him the best in the next chapter of his career, and we’ll be following him closely too.”
The Sailors will kick off their new SPL campaign on Feb 24 against Tanjong Pagar United. As last season’s top local side, they will also compete in the play-offs for a place in this season’s ACL. If they fail to progress, they will then take their place in the second-tier AFC Cup.