South Korea’s Park Ji-sung left Premier League giants Manchester United for top-flight minnows Queens Park Rangers on Monday in a bid to get more first-team action.
The industrious 31-year-old midfielder spent seven years at Old Trafford after arriving from Dutch club PSV Eindhoven, scoring 27 goals in 203 appearances for United.
Park — capped more than 100 times and the only Asian to score in three successive World Cup finals tournaments (2002, 2006 and 2010) — helped United win four Premier League titles, three League Cups and the 2008 Champions League, but he could not quite nail down a first-choice spot in the Red Devils’ midfield.
“It was a very difficult decision, it’s hard to leave such a big club, but QPR showed me what they are trying to be,” he said. “It is time for a new challenge.”
Park, who signed for an undisclosed fee believed to be more than ￡2 million (US$3.1 million), reportedly received offers from leading clubs in England, Europe and Asia.
However, he decided to join a QPR side owned by ambitious Malaysian businessman Tony Fernandes and managed by former United striker Mark Hughes.
“QPR want to be a bigger club, they want to improve and it’s a great challenge,” Park said. “It was a difficult decision, but they have great players and they are hungry to get to the next level. It’s not about the money. The manager, Mark Hughes, has a proven track record at Premier League level, and I am looking forward to working with him and the rest of the squad to help take the club to the next level.”
Park is Rangers’ sixth pre-season signing, joining Ryan Nelsen, Andrew Johnson, Robert Green, Samba Diakite and his former United teammate Fabio at Loftus Road.
“On a football level, Ji is someone I have admired from afar for years,” Hughes said. “He wore the red shirt of Manchester United in a distinguished way and he will bring a great deal to the team, I can’t wait to start working with him. Ji is a motivated guy, he feels there is success ahead of him, he ticks every box. It’s a very exciting time for QPR.”
“He’s very adept in a number of positions. What he brings to the team is technical ability, a huge work ethic and a winning mentality,” Hughes said. “He understands what it takes to win trophies and to win matches, and I want to take that from Ji and pass it to the rest of the team. I said at the end of the season we didn’t want to be in the same position next season and I stand by that, we are in a better place now.”
Meanwhile, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was sorry to see Park go.
“He is the ultimate professional and such a nice lad,” Ferguson said. “He never let us down on the big occasions. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t give him the number of games he wanted.”