Money often brings delusions of grandeur. Queens Park Rangers’ vice-chairman Amit Bhutia seemed keen to illustrate the aphorism as he proclaimed the nouveau-rich London club’s latest signing as signalling a ‘momentous day’ in their history. Continuing, the Indian entrepreneur excitedly announced such a coup as a ‘landmark’ in his team’s history whilst chairman Tony Fernandes was ‘thrilled’ to secure the arrival of a ‘global superstar.’ ‘My heart is running at 150mph,’ he gushed, dazed with ecstasy. So who, you may contend, could be the subject of such palpitations? Which footballing Titan has eschewed the glamour and glory of Europe’s elite to transform the fortunes of a side who narrowly escaped relegation from the Premier League merely months ago? Well, 31 year-old former Manchester United reserve Park Ji-Sung, naturally. Who else active on the game’s horizon could arouse such giddy expectations and flowery endorsements?
Of course, the South Korean brings with him exceptional experience and the skills which have richly rewarded him with a century of international appearances, league titles in the Netherlands and England and most prestigiously, a Champions’ League victory. Park has invariably performed admirably in 7 seasons at one the world’s most lustrous sporting institutions, earning plaudits for his boundless energy, tactical discipline and devoted team ethic. Still, judging from the eulogies greeting his switch to the capital, a very different type of player is expected. Park has gained a reputation as an effective ‘defensive winger;’ a player adept at covering his full-back to nullify the threat of opposing forwards and Sir Alex Ferguson’s faith in selecting him in many of United’s key matches throughout his time at Old Trafford is testament to his diligent efficiency in fulfilling his brief. His game however, has always hinged on obedience rather than inspiration; competence rather than virtuosity.
Additionally, with Park’s physical capabilities already showing concessions to the inevitable ravages of age, there is little evidence to suggest that he offers the technical class to compensate. His time in the north-west may have been laden with trophies yet Park only twice featured in over 20 league fixtures. Although unarguably an important component, the Korean was never indispensable as he dutifully settled into United’s supporting cast. The fear is that amidst the fanfare and captaincy, Park will be thrust centre-stage at Loftus Road, paraded as the Big Fish and commanded to control proceedings. Sadly for all concerned, Park’s talents are ill-equipped for such spotlight and rather than anoint a false idol, Fernandes and Bhutia should instead hope that Alejandro Faurlin’s injuries woes have deserted him.
As mentioned previously on these pages, Mark Hughes’ recent transfer dealings have regressed sharply to almost exclusively favour unimaginative, bristling muscularity/endeavour over technical quality, with recent signings Fábio and Andy Johnson doing little to arrest a troubling trend. Park very much aligns with this philosophy. His selfless determination may in part provide a platform for the mercurial talents of Adel Taarabt to perform but to laud his individual impact as ‘momentous’ is embarrassingly naïve. When the only competition for a player’s signature comes from America and the Middle East, surely any perceived status as a ‘global superstar’ belongs firmly in the past. As such, rather than a remarkable coup, Park’s arrival is merely a natural destination for an solid, ageing footballer offering only diminishing returns and as the cynic may suspect, an increased commercial profile in the Far East.