South Korea’s former Manchester United star Park Ji-sung announced his retirement on Wednesday, ending a trailblazing career which made him Asia’s most decorated player.
Park, 33, said a long-running knee problem had finally forced him out of a sport in which he reached the 2002 World Cup semi-finals and became the first Asian to play a Champions League final.
The last game for the industrious and versatile midfielder was on May 3 for Dutch club PSV Eindhoven, where he had been on loan from Queen’s Park Rangers in the English Championship.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that I cannot go on any longer,” Park told a press conference in his hometown Suwon, around 45 kilometres south of Seoul.
“Because of my weak knee, I don’t think I could last another season,” he added.
Park underwent a major operation on his right knee in 2007 that kept him out of the game for eight months, and the joint continued to give him trouble for years afterwards.
“I have no regrets about my career,” he said. “I do think about what might have been if I hadn’t been injured, but I have no feelings of disappointment or sorrow as I leave the sport.”
His retirement ends a circular European adventure which started at PSV, before he joined Manchester United in 2005 and became the first Asian winner of the Champions League in 2008.
Park missed that Champions League final against Chelsea but the following year, he became the first Asian to play the European title match when United lost 2-0 to Barcelona.
Park, the first South Korean to play in the English Premier League, also picked up four league titles in a seven-year stint in which he became a favourite lieutenant of Sir Alex Ferguson.
He left in 2012 after 203 appearances and 27 goals, but the move to a rebuilding QPR proved ill-fated and the London club were relegated from the Premier League last year.
Park also played in three straight World Cups starting in 2002 when co-hosts South Korea made history with a shock run to the semi-finals, the best performance by an Asian team.
He is fondly remembered in that tournament for scoring the winner in the 1-0 victory over Portugal which took South Korea into the knockout stages for the first time.