As it is widely known as the European game, football in Asia has relatively been playing catchup with Europe and South America. Thus, to make it as a footballer in mainstream Europe, Asian players have to overcome several cultural barriers, racism and many more hours of successful practice in order to ‘live the European dream’.
However, football in Asia has undergone a drastic development over the past few years and we are beginning to realize the many talents existing on the continent which spans from Japan to the Middle East and the very edges of Europe.
Asian footballers are beginning to make headlines in the European game based on their talent and skill, as their achievements are leaving an indelible mark in the minds of fans.
This article will tell you about the best Asian players currently in Europe, and we will be consulting Overlyzer where you can check best betting tips and statistics on this website.
The Spurs man has become one of the three best Asian footballers to have played in Europe and is probably the most famous Asian player at the moment.
Son’s European adventure began very early when he joined Hamburger at the age of 16 before moving to Bayer Leverkusen in 2013. After a couple of impressive seasons, Tottenham signed him for €30million ahead of the 2015-16 season to make him the most expensive Asian player ever.
The 29-year-old is now the top Asian goalscorer in Premier League and Champions League history, and has gone on to become the first Asian player to be nominated for a Ballon d’Or as well as one of the few to reach the Champions League final.
The South Korean has built a reputation as a goal scoring winger and won the 2020 Puskas award for his amazing solo goal against Burnley. Son’s longevity at Spurs has helped build up a wonderful strike partnership with Harry Kane as they set a record for the most goal combinations in a single Premier League season with 14.
His goal against Vitesse in their recent UEFA Europa Conference League game meant Son has now scored the first goal under each of Tottenham’s last three permanent managers. He has built a unique career for himself where not many had from his continent and Son has now registered 96 appearances for South Korea, scoring 30 international goals.
He is quickly becoming one of the well-known Japanese players in Europe’s top five leagues. Tomiyasu had a trial at Barcelona’s Soccer Camp in Japan aged 11 and was even offered a place in their famed La Masia academy but passed up on the chance due to being unable to relocate to Spain.
The defender instead built his career in the Japanese League where his impressive performances earned a move to Belgian side Sint-Truiden in 2018. After a single season, Tomiyasu was already good enough for a move to Bologna.
In a league known for its great defensive tactics, Tomiyasu was in the right place to learn the art of the European game and quickly became a regular in Serie A. The Japan international was one of Bologna’s top performers and played as a full-back in his first season before moving central in his second and final season in Italy.
Arsenal made a big call on the 23-year-old ahead of the ongoing season as he was signed late in the transfer window to bolster their defensive ranks. Tomiyasu has already made eight Premier League appearances where he has been massively impressive and was awarded Arsenal’s Player of the Month for September, only a few weeks after joining the club.
His aggressive showings at right-back is one of the main reasons for their defensive turnaround and the team’s general improvement as they rose to fifth on the table. With 26 caps already for Japan, Tomiyasu still has a long way to go at the top level in Europe and there is more to come from the solid defender.
The Prolific Iranian has never played in his country’s domestic League, having spent his entire professional career in the Russian Premier League. Thus, he has slowly built a reputation for himself and is enjoying the best form of his career at Zenit St. Petersburg.
Azmoun is the second-most expensive Iranian player ever and also responsible for the most goals scored by an Iranian in the Champions League with four. He has hit exceeding heights with Zenit where they have won three consecutive league titles and the cup last season as Azmoun was the league’s joint-top scorer with teammate Artem Dzyuba in 2019/20.
The 26-year-old has hit nine goals and four assists in 18 appearances this season and has increased his international goal tally to 39 in only 60 appearances. Azmoun is duly courting interest for his services ahead of the 2022 winter transfer window and it is easy to see why he could well make it in one of the top five leagues.
The only Uzbek player on this list, Shomurodov is one of the few men from his country to have actually played in Europe as he helped Genoa avoid relegation with his eight league goals being the club’s third-highest for the 2020/21 season.
Shomurodov began his European career when signing for Russian side FC Rostov in 2017 from the Uzbek side, Bunyodkor. The 26-year-old has steadily impressed in attack and moved to Roma for €17.5 million last summer.
Shomurodov has built on his consistent playing time and now seems to have won the trust of José Mourinho who has begun to pair him alongside record signing Tammy Abraham upfront.
In 2015, the then 19-year-old joined Austrian club Red Bull Salzburg and enjoyed loan spells at Liefering and Hamburg as he lifted four Austrian league titles and three cups.
Hwang slowly rose to prominence at the club and built his knowledge for the game as he became well known for his work-rate, accurate passing and dribbling. Infact, he was nicknamed the “Bull” (Hwangso) in his homeland due to his aggressive playing style and surname.
The 2019/20 season was something of a breakthrough for Hwang who drew plaudits alongside strike partners Erling Haaland and Takumi Minamino. The trio made a name for themselves in the Champions League as Hwang was involved in three goals and three assists, as well as scoring 16 goals and providing 22 assists in 40 appearances in all competitions.
That productive form earned Hwang a move to Salzburg’s sister club RB Leipzig in Germany where he spent a season before joining Wolves on loan ahead of the 2021/22 season.
The 25-year-old has been equally impressive in the English top flight having scored against Watford on his debut. He has scored four times in nine Premier League games so far and there is more to come for the attacker who looks ready made for the big time.
The other half of Salzburg’s Asian contingent, Minamino has had a brilliant career all through and he gave a sign of what was to come when he was named the J.League Rookie of the Year in his first season as a professional in 2013.
The Japan international left his homeland to move to Red Bull Salzburg in 2014 and enjoyed hugely successful seasons as he built his reputation and talent at a European level club. After playing 199 matches for the Austrian side, Minamino netted 64 goals and registered 44 assists as his impressive displays saw a €8.5 million transfer to Liverpool in January 2020.
Minamino became the first Japanese player to play for Liverpool and won the Premier League in his maiden season. The Cerezo Osaka youth product is blessed with searing pace, impressive work-rate and an eye for goal but the incredible attacking talent at Liverpool made consistent playing time impossible.
Yet, the 26-year-old went on loan to Southampton in January 2021 and impressed as he scored twice in ten Premier League games. Back at Liverpool, the forward has seen few minutes in the ongoing season but has three goals to his name in only two EFL cup games.
Minamino finds himself stuck between a rock and a hard place where only injuries can allow him to get a serious look-in. However, that does not say anything about his talent as he is only unfortunate to be in a side that includes the likes of Sadio Mane, Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota.
Having joined the Valencia academy set-up in 2011, Kang-in was impressive at various youth levels until he was promoted to Los Che’s senior team in 2018. The former Incheon United trainee was even labeled as one of the most exciting players from Valencia’s academy and much was expected in La Liga.
Lee Kang-in was part of the squad that beat Barcelona to win the Copa del Rey as his profile rose within the first team. The 20-year-old’s creativity, tactical awareness and passing are his most standout qualities as he also won the 2019 U-20 World Cup Golden Ball.
However, the South Korean was released from his contract in bizarre circumstances ahead of the current season and he moved to fellow La Liga side Real Mallorca.
Par for the course, Kang-in has registered a goal and assist in nine games so far for his new side.
The Iranian has had a truly inspiring journey from the lower leagues of Iran to the Champions League. Taremi joined Rio Ave in 2019 as he managed to score 18 goals and register two assists for the Portuguese side, winning the league’s top scorer award and attracting the interest of giants Porto.
The 29-year-old has admirably stepped up at the Dragons and scored 16 goals with 11 assists in his first season. He was also instrumental in Porto’s run to the Champions League quarter finals and scoring against Juventus and Chelsea, the latter of which was named the best goal of the Champions League season.
Taremi has been up to his usual prolific self in the 2021/22 season, delivering nine goals and five assists in 16 games.