YOKOHAMA, Japan (AFP) - Park Ji-Sung has warned his Manchester United teammates not to treat Gamba Osaka lightly in their Club World Cup semi-final, saying Asian football has improved vastly.
The South Korean star spent three seasons in Japan playing for Kyoto Purple Sanga before Guus Hiddink whisked him off to PSV Eindhoven in 2003, which subsequently led to his move to Manchester.
Park still speaks fluent Japanese and said he was relishing being back.
"I've got some very happy memories of playing for Kyoto - and of Japan in general," he said.
"While I was there we got promoted to the J-League and we also won the Emperor's Cup, so it is really good to go back.
"I'm looking forward to showing the people there that I've grown up and that I'm a much better player than when I left."
Park still follows the J-League and while he admits there is still a gap between European and Asian football, he said it was getting smaller.
"It's amazing to think how much Asian football has developed over the past ten years," he told FIFA.com.
"There's still a big difference between European and Asian football, but the gap is getting smaller all of the time.
"I think a big part of that is because there are a lot of Asian players in Europe nowadays. They're learning new skills and getting better experience - and I'd fully recommend Asian players to make the move.
"It's going to make them, as individuals, and Asian football better."
Park is anticipating a tough match against Asian champions Gamba in front of a vocal home crowd on Thursday, but is hopeful of progressing to Sunday's final.
"It's going to be a difficult match for us. We've played a lot of games in December and we've had to make a long journey to Japan. There's also the nine-hour time difference to contend with," he said.
"However, we've experienced that before as we've played in Asia on a few occasions and the weather is similar to England, so we don't have to get used to that, unlike some of the other teams.
"Hopefully, we're going to be able to show the world why we're the English and European champions."
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