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Monaco´s ´Asian Baggio´ Park makes big impression

SoccerNews in Ligue 1 20 Sep 2008

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Monaco's Korean star Park Chu-young may have already made a big impact in the French top flight, but the “Asian Baggio” says he still feels like a footballing apprentice.

Park, a two million-euro summer signing from FC Seoul, scored his side's opening goal in a 2-0 win against Lorient last weekend, and played a big part in Frederic Nimani's second to earn the man of the match award.

“I have alot of pressure on me after my good start. I didn't know how to protect myself from that,” said Park, the first Asian player to pull on the Monaco jersey.

“I'm little known in Europe … this is a new departure.”

The 23-year-old added: “I need to work hard to be at the championship level. I'm still an apprentice.”

That's not necessarily a view shared by his fellow Monaco players.

“He's someone who is very intelligent and open. He has adapted quickly,” said the Mediterranean side's defender Leandro Cufre.

“He surprised me against Lorient, especially his quality on the deck. His contribution takes a load off other defenders. His workrate is important for us.”

Midfielder Camel Meriem said: “He proved himself in the first match. He has the look of a modern attacker, thanks to his workrate and goal sense.

“He has an effective technique. He doesn't take the ball and attempt to make 15 passes. He looks for the right move and passes it efficiently.”

Park, a Taekwondo expert, earned the sobriquet of Asian Baggio – after the Italian legend Roberto Baggio – while leading the Korean under-20 team to a record 11th Asian Youth championships in 2004.

A year later he made a scoring debut for Korea against Uzbekistan and was voted Asian Young Footballer of the Year.

In 2006 he was part of the World Cup squad in Germany but made only one appearance against Switzerland, a game Korea lost 2-0.

Park will be hoping to emulate his fellow countryman Park Ji-Sung's exploits with European and English champions Manchester United.

The former PSV Eindhoven star has made a huge impact in Sir Alex Ferguson's team of all-stars since signing in 2005, so much so that the Scot was devastated to have to exclude the Korean from his Champions League-winning squad.

“It was a terrible decision to have to take. In many ways it was the hardest decision I have ever had to make because Ji-Sung had played such a great part in the previous games against Roma and Barcelona,” said Ferguson recently.

And with typical enthusiasm, Monaco's Park is taking three French language courses in a bid to help his integration into the team – and, who knows, perhaps also into the French public's heart.

Monaco sit seventh in the league and will travel to second-placed Marseille on Sunday.

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