Eyeing Europe, Ahn returning to old form

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Eyeing Europe, Ahn returning to old form

Veteran forward Ahn Jung-hwan has been showing shades of his former self as of late with the Dalian Shide of the Chinese Super League, and several European teams are starting to notice.

Ahn scored the equalizer to help his club in a come-from-behind 3-2 win over the Qindao Jonoon on Sunday.

“I’ve been playing in seven consecutive games but feel fine. I’m in good shape,” Ahn said in a phone interview with the JoongAng Ilbo. “Due to my good conditioning, I’ve been able to score often. Since Park Sung-hwa took over as manager of the club, the team atmosphere has improved as well.”

With Sunday’s performance, Ahn has improved his season total to six goals and two assists. The total is top among Dalian Shide’s players and ranks Ahn fifth overall in the league.

With Ahn leading the way, Dalian Shide have put together a solid unbeaten streak of four wins and three ties in their past seven matches to jump from 14th to fifth overall in the Chinese Super League standings.

They are also now vying for a spot in next year’s AFC Champions League tourney. The top four clubs qualify to enter the tournament.

“Since Park took over the team, it’s been easier to communicate with the coaching staff,” Ahn said. “There’s a bit of pressure on me to perform, but we’ve been doing well and have not lost a match since he became the manager.”

With Ahn performing as of late, three teams in the Segunda Division - Spain’s second-tier league - are reportedly showing strong interest in the veteran forward.

“Ahn is looking to close off his career in a world-class league regardless of financial terms,” a person close to the player said.

At this point in his career, Ahn is focused on enjoying football for a competitive team in Europe. He reportedly turned down a lucrative offer from a Saudi Arabian club during the 2010 World Cup.

Ahn’s intention is to either remain with his current club or play in Europe. His current contract with Dalian Shide expires at the end of the season.

“I’m starting to think about retirement at this point in my career,” said Ahn. “I’m mulling over different options. Ideally, I would like to end my career in a better league. I would like to enjoy football in Europe.”

By Choi Won-chang [jason@joongang.co.kr]
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