Newcastle United’s South Korea star Ki Sung-yueng admits it’s time to give his position to younger players

Ki and Salomon Rondon.
Ki and Salomon Rondon.

For the first time in more than a decade, Ki Sung-yueng is not away with his country.

And the change will take some getting used to given Ki’s long service.

However, the midfielder’s hoping his “difficult” decision to retire from international football with South Korea will help him perform better for Newcastle United.

Ki, signed on a free transfer last summer following his release from Swansea City, retired after this year’s Asian Cup.

The 30-year-old – who had suffered a hamstring injury at the tournament in the United Arab Emirates – was finding it harder to combine his careers for club and country.

And Ki – who won 110 senior caps and scored 10 goals for South Korea in his 11-year international career – felt it was the right time to retire.

“It was a difficult decision, because I’ve been playing for 10 years for my country,” said Ki, who didn’t make the squad for the weekend’s 2-2 draw against Bournemouth after making his comeback from injury in the 3-2 win over Everton earlier this month.

“I decided, because this is the time I have to give my position to younger players.

“For me, it’s very difficult to travel all the way to Korea and then play there and come back. I can’t focus 100% either on the national team or Newcastle.

“Of course, it was a difficult time for me, but I had to decide for myself and then the country.”

Ki was frustrated to miss a part of the season after returning from South Korea’s Asian Cup campaign with an injury.

Speaking earlier this month, Ki said: “I was very frustrated, especially when I got injured in the Asian Cup in the first game, which I never expected.

“It was very disappointing, but this is life. In football, you can have injuries, and sometimes you have to wait for your chance to play.

“This is football life. I just waited, recovered well and tried to be in the team. I worked as hard as I could on the training ground.

“I’m very pleased that we won and hopefully myself and the team will be better and better.”

Ki will now focus on re-establishing himself in the Newcastle first team under Rafa Benitez.

The playemaker, who had a loan spell at Sunderland a few years ago, had found some form before he left for the Asian Cup, impressing with his passing range and creativity.

He returned to the starting line-up in the 3-2 win over Everton, replacing Sean Longstaff, who is out for the rest of the season, but looked rusty at times in his first Premier League start since ??

He was replaced by Mo Diame in the side at Bournemouth on Saturday, and wasn’t on the bench either.