United for seven years, Park pushed for transfer
At the press meeting held at the Park Ji-sung Football Center in Suwon, Gyeonggi, Park Sung-jong said the midfielder was frustrated with his dwindling time on the pitch and began searching for a new team at the end of the 2011-12 season.
“Although he was in good condition last season, his playing time was limited by five to six games,” Park Sung-jong said. “Then came the match against Manchester City.”
The crucial derby on April 30 ended in a 1-0 loss for United. Park got the nod after a seven-game absence and was heavily criticized by British media outlets for a sub-par performance.
“It’s like a worker at a company who, after a long break, struggles at first with a new assignment,” Park Sung-jong said. “He went through many situations and he may have gotten the impression that he was being treated like a player who was going to be dumped.
“He wanted a new challenge at a different place. Manchester United opposed the transfer until the end, but his heart was already set and he made the decision on the transfer.”
On Monday night in Korea, QPR announced the two-year contract with the Asian star at a press conference, with a smiling Park holding the west London club’s kit standing next to his new manager, Mark Hughes, and owner Tony Fernandes.
The transfer fee was undisclosed under an agreement between the two clubs, but was reported to be up to 5 million pounds ($7.8 million).
Park’s father said his salary and other benefits at QPR would be similar to what he received at United, although he did not provide details.
QPR finished just one point ahead of relegation, ending the Premier League season in dramatic fashion when it blew a two-goal lead over Manchester City, a game that will surely go down as one of the most exciting finishes in football history.
The club avoided relegation despite its loss when Bolton failed to win at Stoke City. Park Ji-sung will thus remain in England’s top football league next season.
“[Park’s] record speaks for itself,” said Hughes, a former United player, welcoming Park at QPR’s press conference. “He was always picked for the big matches because they could rely on him and we are going to reap all those qualities.”
Park, playing 205 first-man matches for United, a milestone that only 91 other players reached in its 134-year history, helped the team win the Premier League four times, the League Cup three times and the Champions League once in 2009.
Park’s playing time, however, was reduced significantly in the previous season during which he scored two goals in 17 matches, compared with eight goals a season earlier.
Sir Alex Ferguson, United’s manager, expressed regret for not giving Park sufficient opportunities.
“He is the ultimate professional and such a nice lad. He never let us down on the big occasions. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t give him the number of games he wanted,” Ferguson said.
Park’s father said QPR was not the first team he or his son considered for a possible transfer.
When Park decided to leave United, his father said he even suggested leagues in the Middle East or Asia, although his son wanted to play in a league of similar quality.
His father said they held talks with Russia’s Anzhi Makhachkala, led by Guus Hiddink, Korea’s former national football team coach who has long been Park’s mentor, but the talks did not go well.
A club in the German Bundesliga also had talks with the Parks regarding a transfer, he said.
One or two other London-based Premier League clubs also showed interest in Park before QPR came up with its aggressive bid to sign him, his father said. Hughes himself visited Park and his father in Korea and said Park would be an indispensable player for QPR.
His father said he and Ji-sung decided together to move to QPR and it took a week for United to agree on the transfer.
“QPR showed me their ambition, and that is why I think it was time to have a new challenge,” Park Ji-sung said at Monday’s press conference. “There were some other offers but nothing compared to that of QPR. Money’s not important, it’s about the future and how we reach the optimum. QPR is a team of the future and that’s why I signed.”
A recent United deal with Shinji Kagawa, a young Japanese star rumored to have been picked to replace Park, had no impact on Park’s decision, his father said.
“Kagawa’s deal was announced after Park decided to transfer. There was no influence whatsoever,” his father said.
Park Ji-sung was scheduled to begin training with QPR on Monday in the United Kingdom, according to QPR’s Web site. The team will embark on a Southeast Asian tour beginning Friday and Park will make his first appearance on the first leg of the tour in Malaysia, his agent said.
By Moon Gwang-lip [email@example.com]