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Ex-Arsenal striker hoping to stay healthy in new S. Korean season

All Headlines 16:00 March 07, 2016

By Joo Kyung-don

SEOUL, March 7 (Yonhap) -- South Korean forward Park Chu-young said Monday that he is confident he can put on a better show at the country's top division football league this year, vowing to complete a healthy season.

Park returned to the K League Classic last April for the first time in eight years after signing with his old club FC Seoul, where he also won the league's top rookie award in 2005. The former Arsenal and AS Monaco player had seven goals and two assists in 23 matches in the league last season and helped Seoul win the Korean Football Association (FA) Cup.

However, the latter half of his season was marred by injuries from knee to foot. Though there were talks that the striker could undergo surgery, Park opted for physical therapy for his left knee and says he will be ready when the new season kicks off on Saturday.

"Last season, these injuries had bothered me throughout," Park told reporters at the annual K League Classic media day event Monday. "I just finished about two-weeks of team training with football boots."

Park, who'd last played with Saudi Arabia's Al Shabab before coming to Seoul, said that he doesn't want to set a specific statistical goal for this season, but what's for sure is that he will contribute to the team's victories.

"Overall, I just want to complete the season without getting hurt," he said. "What I aim for this season is the team's victories, whether it is the domestic league or the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League."

But this year, the 30-year-old knows his status within the club might not be like the old days. With new young players joining the squad, Park knows he is now one of the team's veterans and needs to lead by example.

"I know I have to focus on the team instead of my personal goals," he said.

With their upgraded offense, FC Seoul this season are considered as the top contender to stop Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors from taking three straight titles. Seoul brought back Dejan Damjanovic, who won the league's scoring title for three straight seasons from 2011-13 and then played two ensuing seasons in China. The Montenegrin international is also the all-time leading foreign scorer in the K League at 141 goals.

With Brazilian forward Adriano, who was last season's second top scorer and already bagged seven goals in two AFC Champions League matches, firmly entrenched in the starting lineup, Park might have to spend more time on the bench than last season. But the South Korean, who also played with Spanish club Celta Vigo and English side Watford, said that wasn't a concern for him at all.

"I haven't thought about how my role will be shrunken because of Damjanovic," he said. "I actually welcomed Damjanovic's signing because what's good for the team is good for me."

Seoul head coach Choi Yong-soo said he will utilize Damjanovic, Adriano and Park during the season and will not favor any one of the three forwards. However, Choi, who himself was also a prolific striker back in 1990s, said he will not put pressure on Park.

"I believe in him (Park) because he is determined to help the team rather than chase his personal honors," Choi said. "But that doesn't mean I want him to just provide key passes to others. Since he has the ability to score, he needs to finish it when the team needs him."

Park, who will be wearing his usual No. 10 after donning No. 91 last year, said that his club can win the K League Classic this season, though he knows Jeonbuk are considered as the favorite. When asked what makes Seoul better than Jeonbuk, the 182-centimeter forward said it was the players.

"Our foreign players' talents are good, so are our new players'," he said. "We can show various combinations and our offense will be a real threat when we come together."

Whether he is on or off the pitch, Park also vowed that he will move closer to fans. The former South Korean national team captain, who hasn't exactly had an amicable relationship with the media, has been active on social network services (SNS) like Instagram, posting about his personal lives and entertaining pictures.

"I just hope that fans will like football and players more if they know more about how we spend our time," he said. "For the hashtags, I try to use interesting words that can make people smile."

kdon@yna.co.kr
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