Munich - Following in the footsteps of Bundesliga legend Bum-Kun Cha and more recently Ja-Cheol Koo and Heung Min Son, 1. FSV Mainz 05’s new signing Joo-Ho Park becomes the twelfth South Korean in the history of Germany’s top flight to grace the Bundesliga’s hallowed turf.
Born in the South Korean capital of Seoul, the 26-year-old brings with him not only experience of playing at the highest level but also a healthy habit of winning trophies.
Park first broke onto the footballing scene as part of the South Korean side at the 2007 U-20 FIFA World Cup in Canada, which featured the likes of Sergio Aguero, Alexandre Pato, Michael Bradley, Arturo Vidal and Luis Suarez to name a few. South Korea were eliminated from the competition at the group stage, but the tournament had a profound effect on Park, who still refers to it as his “best football experience”.
His performances opened the door for him to embark on a professional career in the game and he soon moved to Japan, joining Mito HollyHock of the second tier. After impressing in his debut season, as the East Japanese outfit finished in eleventh, the left-back was then snapped up by J. League side Kashima Antlers. Park went on to win the league title in his first term with Antlers, but at the end of the campaign chose to move on to pastures new again in search of more regular first-team football.
The next stop on his tour of Japanese clubs was three-time J. League champions Jubilo Iwata, who at the time were seeking to put an end to a recent decline in form. Though they failed to improve on their eleventh place finish from the previous season, Park did play an integral role in them claiming the J. League Cup in 2010.
Scouts soon started to take notice of the up-and-coming wing back that names Manchester United FC’s Patrice Evra as his footballing role model, and it wasn’t long before a move to Europe materialised, with FC Basel 1893 - then coached by current Hamburger SV-boss Thorsten Fink - acquiring his services. Liking up with the Swiss side in the summer of 2011, Park established himself as a mainstay of the team, making 47 appearances in two seasons, winning the back-to-back Swiss Super Leagues as well as the Swiss Cup in 2012.
Furthermore, in the 2011/12 season he Basel become the first Swiss side to reach the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League, before Basel then achieved a similar feat in 2012/13 in reaching the semi-final in the UEFA Europa League, defeating the likes of Tottenham Hotspur FC along the way before losing to eventual winners Chelsea FC. Park was one of the club's most consistent performers in the club's continental campaigns, and Mainz have now strengthened a problematic position with a player of undoubted European pedigree.
More likely to add solidity to a backline than bomb forward down the wings, Park will no doubt be hoping to maintain his current trajectory in a bid to secure himself a place in the national team squad this summer, with South Korea having already qualified for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Motivated and eager to impress, Mainz head coach Thomas Tuchel could prove to be the perfect person to get the best out of his new 26-year-old left-back.