Park Ji-Sung (Hangul: 박지성, IPA: /pak tɕi sʌŋ/; born 25 February 1981 in Seoul) is a South Korean professional footballer who plays for the English club Manchester United, as well as the South Korea national football team. He is currently the captain of the South Korea national football team.

Career

Early career

Although he was born in the South Korean capital, Seoul, Park grew up in Suwon, a satellite city 30 kilometres (19 mi) south of Seoul. While in high school, Park was rejected by a number of professional clubs, due to his small stature.

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He ended up playing for Myongji University after his high school coach strongly recommended him to the university coach. In 2000, after just a year at Myongji University, Kyoto Purple Sanga of Japan offered Park a contract and he took up the offer.Kyoto Purple Sanga

Park signed with the Japanese club who had just been relegated to J2. In 2001 the club won the Division 2 championships and were promoted to the first division. In 2002, Park led the team into the finals of the Emperor's Cup, and scored the equalizer with a header and assisted Kurobe's winning goal in the final match.[1]. The team went on to win the match 2-1 to become the Emperor's Cup champions for the first time in Sanga's history. He left Sanga following the World Cup and Sanga's failure to avoid relegation to J2.

PSV Eindhoven

After the World Cup, Guus Hiddink was appointed the manager of Dutch club PSV Eindhoven. In 2003, Park and South Korean teammate Lee Young-Pyo moved to PSV Eindhoven, to play under their mentor and former national team coach. While Lee quickly became a fixture in PSV Eindhoven's starting lineup, Park struggled due to injuries.[2]

However, by the end of 2003-04 season, Park had begun to adapt to the Netherlands, both on and off the field. In the 2004-05 season, the departure of Arjen Robben to Chelsea afforded Park more starting opportunities and he quickly proved his worth to the team. Along with Johann Vogel, DaMarcus Beasley and Dutchmen Mark van Bommel and Philip Cocu, Park formed the backbone of PSV Eindhoven's midfield play with his pace and passing.[3] Having been a top contributor of goals and assists that season, the highlight of Park's PSV career came when he scored the first goal against Italian team AC Milan at the Champions League semi-finals. PSV went on to win the home leg 3-1, but their 2-0 loss during the away leg meant AC Milan advanced to the Champions League Final.[4] Demonstrating the sheer scale of his hero status at the club, PSV fans even wrote a song for Park for his contributions during his time with the club. Titled "Song for Park", it was included in the PSV official album "PSV Kampioen", and repeats "Ji-Sung Park" in Dutch pronunciation the whole time.

Manchester United

In the closing months of the 2004-05 season, Park chose to join Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United, who was impressed with Park's lively style of play, terrific pace, and unparalleled fitness. Park signed for the English Premiership side Manchester United for £5 million, subject to a medical and work permit.

Park became the first Asian to ever captain Manchester United when Ryan Giggs passed the armband to Park as he was being substituted in a European home game against Lille OSC. His first goal for Manchester United came on 20 December 2005, during a 3–1 win over Birmingham City in the League Cup Quarter Final.[5] His first goal in the Premier League appeared to have been against Fulham on 5 February 2006, in Manchester United's 4–2 victory at Old Trafford. [6] However the Premier League's Dubious Goals Panel later ruled that this was an "own-goal" due to a deflection off the Fulham defender Carlos Bocanegra. Park's first official league goal came against Arsenal on April 9, in Manchester United's 2-0 victory at Old Trafford.[7]

In April 2007, Park was sent to America for surgery on a recurring knee injury, putting an end to his season.[8] Although sidelined by injury for most of the season, he still played in enough matches to become the first Korean player to win the Premier League.

On 1 March 2008, Park scored his first Premiership goal of the 2007-08 season after returning from his long-term injury against Fulham. His lack of appearances had caused much controversy in Korea,[9] but he proved his worth when he delivered an assist to Rooney in the Champions League quarter-final match against A.S. Roma. On 9 April 2008, Park took part in the second leg quarter final against AS Roma. With Manchester United advancing to semi-finals of Champions League, Park became the only Asian footballer to be part of the Champions League semi-finals three different times[10]. On 29 April, 2008, Manchester United advanced to the Champions League Final after beating Barcelona. Park was voted Man of the Match.

On 21 May, it came as a huge surprise to many that Park was excluded completely from the squad to face Chelsea in the 2008 UEFA Champions League Final. Many believed that Park's performances against Roma and Barcelona had earned him a place in the starting line-up for the final. With that omission, Park failed to become the first footballer from Asia to play in a Champions League Final, as had widely been anticipated in South Korea. Later, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson stated that leaving the South Korean winger out from the 18-man squad for the Champions League final was one of the hardest decisions he had to make all throughout his managerial career.

Early in the 2008–09 Premier League season, in an away match versus Chelsea, Park scored the only goal for United in a 1–1 draw on 21 September, 2008, in a game which he also won the Man of the Match award.[11] On 13 December 2008, he made his 100th appearance for Manchester United, starting in the match against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.[12]

International career

Park began his international career as a 19 year old defensive midfielder. Park made his first appearance selection during 2000 Sydney Olympics U-23 regional quailfier. Park was on 2000 Sydney Olympic roster along with Lee Chun-Soo, and Lee Dong-Gook. Selected by then manager, Huh Jung-Moo, he was unable to improve or show potential as a future regular for Korean National Team. However, when Guus Hiddink became the head coach of South Korea, Park's position was shifted to that of a winger. Since then, Park has become a versatile player able to play in a variety of positions: central, right and left midfield, as well as wing-forward.

Park scored a memorable goal during the 2002 World Cup. During the group stages South Korea had won their first game against Poland[13] and drew against USA. In order to advance, they had to manage a draw at the least against favoured Portugal side. The game was 0-0 until the 70th minute following two red cards against Portugal, when Park scored the match winner, controlling the ball with his chest and beating Sérgio Conceição before volleying it into the net with his left foot. His goal eliminated Portugal and advanced South Korea into the knockout stages of the tournament for the first time.[14]

Park's success in the World Cup continued into the 2006 tournament. He scored the equalising goal in the 2nd Group G Match against eventual finalists France in the 2006 FIFA World Cup[15] and was voted Man of the match.[15] Between these two World Cup Finals, his shirt number shifted from 21 to 7, and he played in every match for South Korea.

On October 11, he captained South Korea for the first time in a friendly match against Uzbekistan. The game ended 3-0 for Korea.

Honours

Club

Kyoto Purple Sanga

  • J. League Division 2 (1): 2001
  • Emperor's Cup (1): 2002

PSV Eindhoven

  • Eredivisie (1): 2004–05
  • KNVB Cup (1): 2005

Manchester United

  • Premier League (2): 2006–07, 2007–08
  • Football League Cup (1): 2005–06
  • FA Community Shield (2): 2007, 2008
  • UEFA Champions League (1): 2007–08
  • FIFA Club World Cup (1): 2008

Country

Korea Republic

  • FIFA World Cup:
    • Fourth Place (1): 2002

Individual

  • Nominated: UEFA Club Football Awards: 2005
  • European Footballer of the Year Candidate: 2005
  • EuroSport Best XI midfielder: 2007
  • UEFA Champions League Best XI: 2005
  • J. League Division 2 MVP: 2001
  • Emperor's Cup MVP: 2002
  • J. League Best XI: 2001
  • J. League Best XI: 2002
  • Amstel Cup MVP: 2005
  • Holland Casino Eredivisie Best XI: 2004–05
  • FIFA.com's Best Asian Footballer in Europe: 2007

References and Notes

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