Queens Park Rangers were in the mood to shout it from the rooftops and so they did. On the 29th floor of London's Millbank Tower, the club celebrated the £2m capture of Park Ji-sung from Manchester United. The views were complemented by the bevy of promotional models while the sizeable South Korean media presence reinforced the feeling that this was no ordinary unveiling. It is not every summer that Rangers sign a player who they can bill as a world star.
"It is a momentous day for us," said the vice-chairman, Amit Bhatia, who remembered the toils in the Championship at the start of his six-year association with the club. "It stamps our ambition about the future. It is a landmark day."
The chairman, Tony Fernandes, was never going to be outdone in the hyperbole stakes and, more than anyone, he reflected the excitement. "It's an important step for us to get a global superstar like Ji," he said. "My heart is running at 150mph. We are thrilled to have a talent like him."
The Rangers website was assaulted by 125,000 hits and it is dawning on everybody at the club exactly what it means to have this icon of Asian football primed to wear the hooped shirt. The 31-year-old midfielder will travel with the squad on their pre-season tour of Thailand and Malaysia.
Swelling the feelgood factor as the manager, Mark Hughes, gets his transfer business done early is the reality that Park wanted the move badly enough to force it against the wishes of Sir Alex Ferguson. The United manager intended to keep him and so did the chief executive, David Gill. Ferguson's admiration for Park, who had 12 months to run on his United contract, can be measured in how he turned to him in virtually all of United's Champions League knockout ties over the past five seasons, the painful exception being the 2008 final against Chelsea.
But Park felt that his opportunities had grown limited last season and he said that he had been persuaded by the "ambition" at Rangers, which involves moving to a 45,000-seat stadium in west London. Fernandes says that he has identified two sites. There is the determination to improve the youth set-up while Hughes has made a clutch of senior signings, among them the goalkeeper Rob Green, the defender Fábio da Silva (on loan from United) and the striker Andy Johnson.
Park had more lucrative offers, particularly from Asia, where he stood to be the poster boy for the development of the domestic game. But he has committed to a two-year contract at Loftus Road and Hughes indicated that he could also take over the captaincy from the disgraced Joey Barton.
"It was a very difficult decision to leave United," Park said. "But I told them I wanted to leave because I had a great offer. I was offered more money [elsewhere] but QPR offered me something more interesting. If QPR hadn't explained their future, I might have stayed."
It is sometimes said that players who depart United are on the way down but Hughes, who left Old Trafford for Chelsea in 1995, begged to differ. "Chelsea were mid-table and their expectations were quite low," Hughes said. "But I came with [Ruud] Gullit and [Gianluca] Vialli and we won our first trophy in 24 years. I was able to tell that story to Ji. You should never think that when you leave United, your career is over. It's about another challenge in your life."
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image: © Tom Cuppens