When Manchester United bought Ji-Sung Park from PSV, the ABUs start whispering that he was just here to sell shirts. Is there no end to the lengths Manchester United will go to in order to firmly establish their global brand?
United went on their pre-season tour of Asia just after the signing, which seemed to confirm the player was just bought to grab fans abroad. The fact we were playing in China and Japan, who have long running historys of less than friendly encounters with South Korea, seemed lost on everyone. How suprising that the media and rival fans would ignore (or be ignorant to) this fact to give them the opportunity to slate us.
Anyone with just a bit of sense would have been able to see the real reasons behind his signing. Maybe there are some managers who will be drawn in to a ridiculous money-making market, but Sir Alex Ferguson isn’t one of them. He would never devalue the team or risk defeat for the sake of throwing on a player just there to sell shirts.
The great manager, Guus Hiddink, was the first man of note to really recognise the potential in Park. Whilst manager of South Korea, he converted Park from a holding midfielder (no, honestly!) to a winger and his career really began to take off.
Hiddink played Park on the wing during the 2002 World Cup, where he scored the winning goal against Portugal to secure their place in the Round of 16.
PSV then lured Hiddink away from the South Korea post, and in doing so, brought Park to Europe. He played a blinder in the 2005 Champions League semi-finals against AC Milan, scoring the opening goal in their 3-1 victory over the Italians at home. He finished with the highest number of assists for PSV that season, before being sold to United.
Clearly, a player bought for shirt sales…
“When I first came here I heard about that,” Park said. “People said I was here for merchandising, but I couldn’t say anything because I’m a football player and had to show my ability on the pitch. I kept showing that and now everybody knows I’m not here to sell T-shirts. I had proved my ability at PSV Eindhoven, but still European people thought that Asian players aren’t good enough to play in Europe. But I always wanted to face the challenge and prove that I can play here. I will keep showing that. The criticism hurt a bit, but not too much because I know that historically Asian players haven’t done well in Europe. But I think we can show our ability and that Asian players can play better than some European players. Now everybody is seeing that Asian players can also play in Europe so I am satisfied with that.”