Arsenal outcast Park returns to FC Seoul

Park Chu-young will return to the K-League, ending his wandering career after a botched attempt at success in European football.

FC Seoul of Korea’s top-tier K-League Classic said Tuesday that it signed a three-year deal with the 29-year-old striker and he will soon join its squad.

The salary was not disclosed yet, but officials at the club said “Park returned to FC Seoul almost as a commoner considering his reputation.”

According to the club, Park expressed his will to end his playing career at the K-League Classic, where he first started professional football in 2005.

Park played for the Seoul-based club from 2005 to 2008, scoring 33 goals with nine assists in 91 games.

In his debut season, he scored 18 goals, 12 in the regular season and 6 in the League Cup, snatching the rookie of the year award. During four seasons with FC Seoul, he led the club along with current English Premier League (EPL) duo Ki Sung-yueng of Swansea City and Lee Chung-yong of Crystal Palace.

In September 2008, he moved to AS Monaco in France’s League 1 and spent a solid three seasons there. The most prolific was the 2010-11 season, where he appeared 35 times and scored 12 goals.

Boosted by his successful French stint, he moved to Arsenal in the EPL, but his career plummeted in London. He was mostly confined to the bench, appearing only seven times and scoring one goal in two seasons with the Gunners. From there, he moved to Celta Vigo in Spain and Watford in the English second division on loan, but failed to make an impact.

In October last year, he flew to Middle East and signed an eight-month contract with Al-Shabab FC of Saudi Arabia. He played as a regular there, but wasn’t successful, scoring one goal in seven games. 

Park’s international career has also had its share of ups and downs. For years, he has been the undisputed No. 1 striker for the national teams in various age groups and represented his country in the 2006, 2010 and 2014 World Cups.

Since 2003, he has played 26 games and netted 18 goals for the under-20 national team. The highlight of his youth career came during the final of the 2004 Asian Football Confederation Youth Championships against China, when he beat four defenders and the goalkeeper to hit his first goal of the game. After scoring another, he raised Korea to clinch the title and rose to stardom.

After earning an A team cap in 2005, he helped Korea in critical moments of the country’s international football challenges in recent years.

In the 2010 World Cup, he helped Korea to advance to the last 16 with a goal from a free kick in the final group match against Nigeria. In the 2012 Olympics, where he played as a “wild-card” player, he netted a precious goal during the bronze medal match against Japan, brushing off not only criticism surrounding him but also the pressure of not finishing Korea’s mandatory military service. 

Last year, he has been at the center of heated debates among local football fans with some arguing his talent would be still effective for the national team at the Brazil World Cup while others disputing his performance. He managed to join the Brazil squad, but the Koreans dismal campaign, including Park’s drifting performances, drew heavy criticism. 

Whether Park will be able to regain his form is questionable, but for FC Seoul, who have been seeking a reliable striker since Montenegrin international Dejan Damjanovic left the team in 2013, Park’s decisiveness could sharpen its dull attack. K-League organizers and football watchers also expect that the star striker’s return will bring more fans to stadiums.

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