Park Ji-Sung was an underappreciated, yet integral, cog in one of Sir Alex Ferugson’s most dominant eras at Manchester United but the South Korean will always be the trailblazer for Asian footballers. 

The versatile midfielder became the first Asian player to feature in, and win, the pinnacle fixture in European football when Manchester United lifted the Champions League trophy in Moscow after victory over Chelsea in 2008. 

While Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney were superstars, Park’s achievements allowed aspiring youngsters in his homeland to dream - like Yang Hyun-jun.

Yung followed in the footsteps of fellow South Korean’s Cha Du-Ri and Ki Sung-Yung when he joined Celtic this summer from Gangwon FC and the 22-year-old now hopes to emulate his heroes after being inspired by their achievements. 

“The famous Korean football player Park, when I was young I saw a match from Manchester United against Chelsea in the quarter-finals,” Yang replied when asked about his first memories of the the Champions League. 

“Park scored in that game and so after watching that match, it’s now an honour to be involved. “I had a lot of heroes in my football life when I was younger. I looked up to any footballer who played overseas especially Cha Du-ri and Ki Sung-yueng who played at Celtic. They were also my heroes.

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“All those three players gave me motivation to play football, also as a professional football player. I always imagined what it would be like to play in a Champions League game and I’m very grateful to them for this.

“I met Ki very often at K-League games and I’ve also met Cha because he’s a coach with the South Korea national team.

“When I was involved with the national squad, we talked - but they haven’t given me any specific advice about being at Celtic.”

Yang’s Champions League debut turned into a baptism of fire after he stepped off the bench for the final half-hour of the 2-0 defeat to Feyenoord. Within ten minutes of his introduction, Celtic were reduced to nine men and they were pinned deep in their own half with Yang restricted as an attacking force. 

Despite an impressive first-half display, Joe Hart’s error gifted Feyenoord the lead as Celtic’s dismal record in the Champions League continued. 

It’s been six years since they last won in the group stage and Brendan Rodgers’ side need to end that run against Lazio on Wednesday night to preserve their feint hopes of reaching the knockout stages for the first time since the 2012/13 season. 

He said: “Maybe the result from our last Champions League game wasn’t the best one but from that experience, I learned that we can fight in a difficult situation.

“We did our best against Feyenoord and from that, our teamwork has grown stronger after that game. If we play our own style of football, I think it’s possible to beat Lazio.

“If we are going to qualify from this Champions League group, we have to win this game, definitely.”

Yang is becoming accustomed to the atmosphere at Parkhead but the decibels soar exponentially on European nights, which are renowned across the continent. 

“I haven’t yet experienced the atmosphere at Celtic Park on a Champions League night but I can imagine what it will be like,” Yang admitted. “Even in the league games, the atmosphere is unbelievable with so many supporters in the stadium.

“So I’m really looking forward to playing in the Champions League at Celtic Park.
“We will have a lot of support from our fans so we will gain motivation and we’ll do our best to get the best results we can.

“I got to play in front of 60,000 supporters against Tottenham in Seoul and it was a great experience for me but I expect the Lazio game at Celtic Park to be even better. I was so surprised by the noise at our last game against Feyenoord, even from our fans away from home.”

It’s unlikely that Yang will start against Lazio after he was hooked at half-time in yesterday’s dramatic win over Motherwell. The Serie A giants will travel to Glasgow after a concerning start to the season with pressure mounting on Maurizio Sarri. 

A 2-0 defeat against AC Milan tonight increases the scrutiny on the former Chelsea boss but they remain a dangerous opponent - as highlighted by their recent win over reigning Italian champions Napoli.

Oliver Ntcham’s famous win in the Stadio Olimpico in 2019 will act as inspiration for Celtic and Callum McGregor - colossal that night in Rome - will continue to set the standards. 

“Callum always tells us that every game is important,” Yang said. “Before every game, he tells us how important it is and what we have to do and how we have to focus. I think it is always the same thing before every game. 

“I never experienced it before where you have to win every game. But Celtic as a team can set that goal because they are champions. And I am very proud to be part of a team that is champions and to share that motivation to want to win every game.”

Yang’s grasp of English is improving at an impressive rate and acclimatisation to life in Glasgow has been eased by the presence of Celtic’s South Korean contingent. 

Hyeok-kyu Kwon also arrived this summer while Hyeon-gyu Oh joined in January and the trio has already formed a close bond off the pitch.

“Glasgow is a beautiful city,” he added. “And I’ve also had a lot of help from my teammates and the club. They communicate a lot with me so I feel very settled already.

“There are three Korean players here including myself so we are helping each other so I’ve had no difficulties settling.

“The biggest change for me has been the language. I’m having English lessons but I want to improve as quickly as possible so I can communicate by myself without a translator.”