Agent tells of mixed emotions in transferPark Ji-sung made headlines last month when he became the first Korean footballer to make it to the Premier League in England, signing with one of the most prestigious clubs there ― Manchester United.
His agent, Lee Cheol-ho, president of F.S. Corporation, recalls how the negotiations began for the transfer from PSV Eindhoven to Manchester United.
“The first contact to trade Park Ji-sung began on May 28, right after the European Championships League finished,” said Mr. Lee. “The day after, I had a meeting with the chairman of Manchester United, and was surprised to find Sir Alex Ferguson, the manager of the soccer team there.”
Mr. Lee related how Mr. Ferguson said that he had watched 10 games that Park played. According to Mr. Lee, Mr. Ferguson said that Park used both of his feet very well, and he can play in many positions on field, and so was much needed at Manchester United, and he was extremely eager to have Mr. Park join the team.
About a month later, Mr. Park tried on a Manchester United uniform.
Mr. Lee said, “Mr. Ferguson was very enthusiastic, and the terms of the contract seemed good. Afterwards, negotiations were conducted swiftly. However, Ji-sung hesitated at the last minute because of his loyalty towards Gus Hiddink [the manager of PSV].”
Mr. Lee first met the up-and-coming soccer ace in January 1997. At the time, Mr. Lee had just been fired from the local soccer team Pohang Steelers, and he had nowhere to go. His friend Lee Hak-jong, the manager of Suwon Technical high school, invited him to join his team and there Mr. Lee met the shy high schooler, Mr. Park.
“When I first met him, I was amazed by the energy he had in his small physique,” Mr. Lee said. “He was diligent, lithe and stunningly talented. He dribbled the ball with great fluidity and I felt this was a real somebody.” They became fast friends.
Mr. Lee later became an agent and helped Mr. Park transfer to the J-league team Kyoto Purple Sanga in 2000, and in 2002, again helped him to join PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands.
“When I first told Ji-sung about Manchester United’s offer, he said, ‘I’m thrilled, but I’m not sure if going now is good timing,’” said Mr. Lee. He then told Mr. Hiddink, who was stunned to learn that Manchester United was aiming for him, and asked for time. “Ji-sung wavered until the last minute about the transfer because of his loyalty towards Mr. Hiddink. He said he was sorry to leave him and the team.”
Mr. Lee sad, “If Manchester United took Ji-sung for marketing purposes in Asia, then I would have objected to the transfer. Mr. Ferguson told me he was taking Ji-sung so that he could be the best on the team. To be an ace player requires effort on the part of Ji-sung.”
Other teams that were interested in Mr. Park included England’s Everton and Newcastle United and Spain’s Atlantico Madrid, Mr. Lee said.
by Jeong Young-jae
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