In this series, I highlight a much-loved and talented footballer from the past. I’ll tell you a little bit about what I think their key qualities were that made them so special. We’ll go on to look at how best to re-live that legend in Football Manager, by naming a few current players who may be able to ‘mirror the magic’ of the superstar and potentially become your new FM20 hero. So far, we’ve had Juan Román Riquelme, Ronald Koeman and Fabien Barthez.
Who is it?
In today’s post, we will highlight one of the most underrated and tireless midfielders of modern football, 2005 Ballon d’Or nominee, Park Ji-sung.
After a slow start at PSV Eindhoven, “Three Lungs” Park, as he became affectionally known, developed into a regular starter in the midfield for the Dutch outfit, before a July 2005 £4million transfer to English giants Manchester United. Park would go on to play for the Old Trafford side for seven years, as well as earning 100 caps for South Korea, captaining his country.
At 5 foot 9, the South Korean wasn’t particularly known for his strength or physical presence, but has the honour of being the only man marker the iconic Andrea Pirlo said he could never get the better of (I Think, Therefore I Play – Andrea Pirlo, 2013).
What made him so good?
“Three Lungs,” as his nickname suggested, had arguably the most impressive engine in world football at the time. His endless, tireless running and pressing allowed his more offensive teammates to rack up the goals, and the glory while he did the dirty work. But don’t think Park was purely an impressive athlete. He could dribble and pass too, as the horribly soundtracked video above shows (sorry).
In May 2020, former teammate Wayne Rooney stated that Park was as important to the Manchester United side of 2006–2009 as he and Cristiano Ronaldo were, commenting: “It’s crazy, but if you mentioned Cristiano Ronaldo to a 12-year-old, they would immediately say, ‘Yeah, he was a brilliant player for Manchester United.’ But if you said ‘Ji-sung Park’ they may not know who he was.”
The Manchester United and England record goalscorer continues…
“In reality our biggest strength was as a pure counter-attacking machine. We would sit back in our shape, win the ball and just go. Park or Fletch – or both – were always involved. They were vital to us. Players like me, Ronaldo, Tevez got the headlines but they [Park and Darren Fletcher] were as important as us if not more, because of what they did for the team. We knew that inside the dressing room — and also that because they were so good at sacrificing themselves, their actual individual quality was often overlooked.”
How would he look in Football Manager?
If are going to mirror the magic of Park Ji-sung in FM20, we need to determine the key attributes that could best recreate how the iconic South Korean performed on the pitch.
Key strengths – Stamina, Workrate, Teamwork, Natural Fitness
Key weaknesses – Jumping Reach, Strength, Heading, Finishing
Player traits – Tries to Play Way Out of Trouble, Looks For Pass Rather Than Attempting to Score
Position – This is a tough one due to Park being so versatile. Ideally a natural DM who can also cover on either flank. He was deployed regularly as a Ball-Winning Midfielder. A “Carrilero” role, however, may provide the best description, “shuttling” between the lines of midfield.
Who can ‘Mirror the Magic?’
I should be clear. Naturally there may very well be ‘better’ players to play in the defensive midfield roles in FM20 than those I name below.
This is not about finding out who is the best player in the same position and role, it is about analysing Park Ji-sung specifically. For all his gifts and faults, and seeing who matches most accurately, for better or worse.
In this case, anyone taller than 5 foot 10 was discounted.
1 – N’Golo Kanté
My number one suggestion will come at absolutely no surprise to anyone who has watched English football in the last five years. Endless running, diminutive stature but good in the tackle and entirely selfless? Chelsea’s Kanté took the Park template and made it his own. If you can afford him, the Frenchman can cover every blade of grass, and play a bit too.
2 – Charles Aránguiz
Leverkusen’s Chilean midfielder Charles Aránguiz is described on FIFA’s website as “a crafty, tigerish midfielder of the highest order.” Ultra fit, high stamina, a selfless hard worker with a keen eye for a pass? The ability to cover on the flanks if needed? That’s Park down to a tee. Aránguiz may still cost you a pretty penny. If you want an intense press in your midfield, however, the Chilean should be an easier purchase than Kanté. Possibly every bit as capable, too.
3 – Ben Thompson
As you will definitely know by now, I love a curveball option 3 in this series. While still not cheap (because English football of course), Millwall’s 23-year old Ben Thompson could be your man. Ben is not as versatile or technically gifted as the first two suggestions (obviously). The Millwall youngster has strengths in all the right places, however, to play that tireless pressing role Park was so well known for. Workrate, Teamwork, Natural Fitness, Stamina. He can even pass (14), while his dribbling ability (14) should help him get out of tight spaces. This is hugely useful when turning defence to attack. With 10 flair and 11 vision, I’d try and train out those Tries Killer Balls Often and Tries Tricks traits. At 23, however, he could really make that DM position his own if you put the time in.
Do you have any experience of managing these three players? What are your thoughts on who could best ‘mirror the magic’ of Park Ji-sung?
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