As South Korean midfielder Lee Kang-in walked off the pitch at Seoul World Cup Stadium, having contributed two goals in an eventual 4-0 win over Tunisia in a friendly, he seemed to bask in a thunderous ovation from an adoring crowd of some 59,000.
Lee's national team head coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, isn't so sure if such a show of adulation is a good thing for the 22-year-old, who is especially popular among female fans.
Lee, midfielder for Paris Saint-Germain, is one of South Korea's most beloved football players, a wunderkind who can do no wrong. He would still have drawn a huge cheer even if he hadn't scored any goal Friday. The brace -- one off a free kick and another off an open play -- elevated Lee to a whole new level of stardom. Without Son Heung-min, the longtime national team captain who sat out the match with a lower body injury, Lee was the singular star Friday.
Klinsmann, a global icon himself during his playing days, insisted that Lee has to find ways to stay grounded amid the lovefest.
"It's just a joy to work with him because he's always in good mood, he's always smiling, but he's also hungry," Klinsmann said. "This is what he needs to be. It's not easy for Kang-in to stay hungry because here, he's getting treated like a pop star, which is not good because a pop star doesn't score goals. He has to stay humble. He has to stay focused. He has to work hard and fight."
Klinsmann praised Lee for doing just that, fighting for his space against Tunisia and working hard to score his first two goals for the senior national team.
"Every time he will come back to Korea, there will be I don't know how many people screaming for him," Klinsmann added. "It's, for me, very new. But he has so much talent. And we have to make sure -- and obviously the people in his club because they have him most of the time in Paris -- to keep him always grounded and hungry."
Lee signed for PSG, reigning French champions, this summer after spending the previous dozen years in Spain, starting at a youth academy and moving all the way up to the top-flight La Liga.
Klinsmann said it's an ideal landing spot for Lee.
"When a club like Paris Saint-Germain takes a player from Korea, it means that it's a very special player. Kang-in is hugely talented," Klinsmann said. "He will now start to learn from top players in Paris what it means to play in the Champions League and also what it means to play under the pressure of winning titles." (Yonhap)