Koo Ja-Cheol, Park Ji-Sung & the top five South Koreans in Europe for the 2011-12 season

Following the conclusion of the 2011-12 European league season, Goal.com has put together a list of the best performing South Koreans on the continent
By Ben Somerford & Yonghun Lee

Following Park Ji-Sung's retirement from the national team after the 2011 Asian Cup, South Korea has been searching for its next big star. Park Chu-Young was the natural successor but he has endured a difficult 12 months for a variety of reasons as the search and the spotlight went elsewhere. Indeed, the 2011-12 season was a campaign where new faces came to the fore among the Korean legion abroad.

However it was a tough year for South Koreans in Europe as Park Chu-Young's transfer to Arsenal from relegated Monaco turned out to be a disappointment as he managed only seven minutes of Premier League action, while Bolton's Lee Chung-Yong suffered a broken leg in pre-season.

In light of this, Goal.com has put together its top-five South Koreans players in Europe for the 2011-12 season, with a particular emphasis on the next generation:

5. JI DONG-WON | Sunderland, Striker, 20
Appearances 21
Goals 2
Assists 2
Season highlight Winner vs Man City
2011-12 starts 2
Scored his goals against Man City & Chelsea
It may seem odd for a striker who made only two starts and scored two goals to make this list, but Ji, 20, exceeded a lot of expectations after he joined Steve Bruce's side from Chunnam in June last year. Bruce, who signed Ji, was sacked in November, meaning it was an unstable first term for the youngster but he did well to remain a regular squad member under Martin O'Neill, including scoring a famous late winner against Manchester City. When given a rare start late in the season against Fulham, he impressed with an assist in a lively performance which showed how capable he is at this level.

4. PARK JI-SUNG | Manchester United, Midfielder, 31
Appearances 28
Goals 3
Assists 4
Season highlight Volley in FA Cup v Liverpool
Season lowlight Poor in Manchester derby
Contract expires End of 2012-13 season
It's fair to say the 2011-12 campaign was a disappointing season by Park's lofty standards, however he still made 28 appearances for a club who finished runners-up in the English Premier League. The 31-year-old struggled for form late in the term, prompting questions about his fitness, but earlier in the season he produced his trademark tireless style, including a goal in the 8-2 romp of Arsenal. While Park is becoming more of a fringe member he remains a valuable squad player and someone Sir Alex Ferguson has a lot of faith in.

3. SON HEUNG-MIN | Hamburg SV, Winger/Striker, 19
Appearances 30
Goals 5
Assists 0
Season highlight Winner against Hannover
Consecutive sub apps from December - April 13
2011-12 starts 13
The teenager may not yet have realised his potential but he went some way to showing it during the 2011-12 season where he scored some important goals to steer Hamburg away from the danger zone. Son started and finished the season well, but had some difficulties getting significant game time under Thorsten Fink in the middle part of the campaign. However, when Fink put his faith in him late in the term during their relegation scrap, his pace and energy shone, scoring crucial goals against Hannover and Nurnberg.

2. KI SUNG-YUENG | Celtic, Midfielder, 23
Appearances 41
Goals 7
Assists 6
Neil Lennon's appraisal "He's worth £10 million"
Starts before Christmas 23
Starts after Christmas 8
Ki grew into a complete player during the 2011-12 Scottish season although his exceptional progress was curtailed by injuries and illness in the second-half of the campaign. The 23-year-old central midfielder produced many fine passing displays throughout the early parts of the term and his set-pieces were a feature too. Ki played a big part in helping the Hoops win the Scottish title, although their rivals Rangers were deducted 10 points after going into administration.

1. KOO JA-CHEOL | Wolfsburg/Augsburg, Midfielder, 23
Appearances 27
Goals 5
Assists 3
Season highlight Goals helped Augsburg survival
Future Interest from Hamburg
International goals in 2011 7
The former Jeju United man had a forgettable first half of the season under Felix Magath at Wolfsburg making 12 irregular appearances, but a January loan switch to struggling Augsburg turned out to be a great choice. Koo got his confidence back with a superb stint in Bavaria, scoring five goals in 15 appearances and playing a huge role as they avoided the drop. His good performances with Jos Luhukay's side has created a three-club race for his signature, involving Wolfsburg, Augsburg and Hamburg.

Do you agree with Goal.com's Top Five South Koreans in Europe for this season? If not, who do you think should be on the list?

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