Former Arsenal striker Park Chu-Young returning to South Korea
SEOUL, South Korea -- Former Arsenal striker Park Chu-Young is returning to his native South Korea to rejoin his former team, FC Seoul, in a move that could rejuvenate his career and boost the K-League's fortunes as the new season gets underway.
The 29-year-old Park was one of the biggest stars in Asian soccer when he left in 2008 to sign with AS Monaco. After three successful seasons in France, he jumped to Arsenal and his form began to slip. He played just seven minutes of Premier League soccer before being released in 2014.
Subsequent loans to Celta Vigo in Spain, Watford in England's Championship and most recently Al Shabab in Saudi Arabia also did not bring a return of his scoring touch.
The low point may have come at the 2014 World Cup. Park, who has scored 24 goals in 65 international appearances, played so dismally in Brazil, he was severely criticised after the tournament and lost his place in the national team.
Despite his difficulties, former national coach Cho Kwang-Rae said he believes Park's move overseas was a positive one and he can still be a playmaker when he returns home.
"He has had a tough time in Europe, but he scored many goals for the national team when I was in charge," Cho said. "His strengths are shooting and his movement in the space behind defenders. Now he is home with familiar football, culture and teammates, he can recover his form."
Park is also returning to the team where he had his big breakthrough, winning the K-League's Rookie of the Year award in 2005.
"Park has made some poor choices in terms of choosing clubs," FC Seoul coach Choi Yong-Soo told Yonhap News Agency on Tuesday. "He is still one of the representative players in Korean soccer however and I have talked to him on the phone and feel that he has matured."
While Park is looking to revive his career, the K-League is desperate for a star player.
The league has been in the shadow of the South Korean baseball league for years, and in 2011, its reputation was tarnished by a major match-fixing scandal. In recent years, the league has also lost both foreign and domestic talent to the lucrative Chinese Super League, further diminishing interest in the domestic teams.
FC Seoul alone have seen four of their biggest stars go across the Yellow Sea in the past 15 months. If nothing else, it needs a striker now.
"Park still has much to offer," Choi said. "Skill and technique do not lie."