April 1 edition of the Tavern kickaround has some shocking news: QPR officials confirmed it an hour ago, after the madness of the World Cup ends this summer, Park Ji-Sung will finish his storied career with a dramatic move to Suwon Bluewings in the K-League Classic [Tavern Note: Jae and I were just talking about that possibility in the last Tavern Hangout just 2 days ago]. Such is the stature that he has with the Korean National team, Ji-Sung had recently rejected a in-person pleading by Hong Myong-Bo to un-retire and rejoin the Taeguk Warriors for what would be his 4th World Cup appearance.
Park is enjoying a late resurgence in his career, contributing several vital assists to his loan club PSV Eindhoven. Still there are questions to be asked about the condition of his knees. Park, who turned 33 in February, has already had a knee injury midseason that took him out of action for over a month. According to various sources, Park has needed more time to recover after every game this season.
Both Cha Bum-Kun and former teammate Lee Young-Pyo is reported to have had a hand in persuading Park to return to Korea to join in the domestic football scene. Lagging attendance rate in the K-League has been a concern for quite some time – which Lee Young-Pyo was very vocal about before his own retirement from the Vancouver Whitecaps in the MLS. [That leaves the Tavern to speculate: would Lee fast track his timetable to return to Korea? Currently he is studying sports business management in Vancouver at a local university and with the Whitecaps]. With Park’s mega-superstar status in Korea, his appearance on the K-League pitch may induce a kind of “David Beckham” effect. In 2007, after stints with Manchester United and Real Madrid, Beckham made the highly publicized move to LA to join the fledgling MLS. While Beckham moved on in 2013 to PSG before retiring, it could be argued that a lasting impact was felt, with attendance rates throughout the MLS rising in the years since.
Interestingly, Park was earlier linked to the new-look Toronto FC, with a superstar lineup of Jermaine Defoe, Michael Bradley and Brazilian first keeper Julio Cesar. Ryan Nelson, Park’s teammate last season at QPR, became head coach of Toronto and had tried, in vain to bring Park to the shores of the MLS.
The strange thing is that it’s virtually silent in Suwon – no official source could confirm or deny QPR’s statement issued earlier today. We’re not sure if there’s still some contractual issues to work out…