Years of charging down the wing at opposition have ended the career of Manchester United’s favourite Korean Park Ji-sung after the 33-year-old called time on his playing days owing to injury.
The South Korean notched up 27 goals in 205 United appearances and was immensely popular with fans during his seven-season stay at Old Trafford, collecting four Premier League titles, three League Cups, one Uefa Champions League and the Fifa Club World Cup.
In 2009 Park became the first Asian to play in a Champions League and seven years earlier he was instrumental as South Korea stunned the football world to reach the last four of the World Cup, co-hosted by the Asian country and neighbours Japan.
“I’ve been mulling retirement since February, and I’ve concluded that my knee won’t hold up for another season,” Park explained at the JS Football Center in Seoul, where his own charity foundation is based and he has a street named after him.
“I have no regrets about my career.
“I do think about what might have been if I hadn’t been injured, but I have no feelings of disappointment or sorrow as I leave the sport.
“I have achieved more than I have thought I would. I’m truly grateful for all the support I have received and I will live the rest of my life thinking how I can pay it back.”
Park last played in England at west London club QPR before joining PSV Eindhoven on loan, making 27 appearances and scoring two goals as the Dutch club secured a fourth-placed finish in the Eredivisie.
Despite years of success under Sir Alex Ferguson at United, Park said his relationship with South Korea coach Guus Hiddink at the 2002 World Cup had left a lasting impression on him as the Dutchman then brought the speedy Asian to Europe with him.
“The most influential figure in my life is Guus Hiddink. He took me abroad after the World Cup and that was the turning point of my life.
“Ferguson also helped me play at the world’s top level… the coaches I’ve spent time with are definitely my great asset.”
Park was described by Ferguson as the “ultimate professional” during his time at Old Trafford, though the Korean only awarded himself seven out of 10 for his playing career.
Park will play for PSV for the last time on May 28, a special charity match between the Netherlands and Korea in tribute to the victims of the recent ferry disaster off the southern tip of mainland Korea where over 300 people, including many schoolchildren, sadly perished last month.
Main image courtesy of ISNTV via YouTube, with thanks.