The sport of American football attracts millions of different kinds of people. It’s probably one of the most popular sports in the entire country, and there are a lot of people who compete in football at both the collegiate and professional level. These people often come from a variety of different backgrounds. Especially as the NFL becomes a more popular form of entertainment internationally, people of different nationalities are drawn to the sport.
Top 10 Asian Football Players In 2023
Without further ado, here are some of the best football players of Asian descent.
10. Ryo Miyaichi
Ryou Miyaichi is a Japanese professional footballer who plays for the Japan National Team. Not only that but he’s also a winger for the Yokohama F. Marinos. Known for his ability to dribble and run past defenders, he has been regarded as one of the most talented youth aspects in world football.
Born into a sporting family, he started playing football as a young child. He later joined the school football club in high school. Not long after graduating, he signed a professional contract with Arsenal after impressing the manager, Arlene Wenger. Without a work permit, however, he was ultimately loaned to the Dutch football team Feyenoord, with whom he made his professional debut.
From there, he was loaned out to the Bolton Wanderers and Wigan Athletic. He then returned to the Eredivisie for several years before returning to Japan, where he signed for the Yokohama F. Marinos. Assigned the number 17 jersey, he made his debut in 2021 against the Nagoya Grampus, where he came onto the field as a substitute. He later played against the Vietnamese champions HAGL during the AFC Champions League, where the team ultimately won 2-1.
Due to a cruciate ligament injury in his right knee, however, he will be sitting out the rest of the 2022 season.
9. Shunsuke Nakamura
Shunsuke Nakamura is the only football player to have been named J.League Most Valuable Player more than once. Born and raised in Japan, he began his professional career with the Yokohama Marinos in 1997, with whom he made over 330 league appearances. In between, he also played in Europe with Regina, Celtic, and Espanyol. During that period, he was named SFWA Footballer of the Year, Scottish Player of the Year, and became the first Japanese player to land a goal in the UEFA Champions League.
He later played for the Japan national team, with whom he scored 24 goals. He also played for them during the AFC Asian Cup and the FIFA World Cup Finals in 2006 and 2010. Not only that but he was also named a member of the Japan under-23 team for the 2000 Summer Olympics, which took place in Sydney.
Following the 2010 World Cup, he announced his retirement from international football. However, he’s still active in the football scene in Japan. In 2011, he was appointed captain of the Yokohama Marinos. Since then, he has played against several notable players including Yasuhito Endo, Oita Trinita, Masami Ihara, Jubilo Iwata, and Gamba Osaka.
8. Yasuhito Endou
Yasuhito Endou is a Japanese football player who plays for Jubilo Iwata. A central midfielder who’s known for his leadership, goal scoring ability, and passing ability, he joined the Yokohama Flugels after graduating from high school in 1998. Together, they went on to win the 1998 Emperor’s Cup. Due to financial constraints, however, the club was ultimately disbanded afterward.
He subsequently joined Kyoto Purple Sanga with contemporaries Hideo Oshima and Kazuki Teshima.
He then moved to Gamba Osaka in 2001, where he became a central player for the club. He was also named a J.League Best Eleven player for ten years in a row from 2003 to 2012. Not only that but he also helped the team win the J1 League Championships in 2005.
From there, they went on to win the AFC Champions League twice in 2008 and 2009. They also won the Emperor’s cup. For his contributions, he was named Asian Footballer of the Year in 2009. Since then, the team has won three major titles in Japan: the Emperor’s Cup, J. League Cup, and J1 League. Endo was also named the J.League MVP for the first time.
Following that, he was transferred to Jubilo Iwata.
7. Ki Sung-Yueng
Ki Sung-Yeung is a South Korean football player who plays as a defensive and central midfielder for FC Seoul. Born and raised in Gwangju, South Korea, he began playing football in his elementary school days. He later went to Australia, where he studied at John Paul College Under the Brain Soccer Program. Not only was he a member of the school team but he also helped them win the Bill Turner Cup in 2004.
By 2005, he had received offers from the A-League club Queensland Roar and the South Korean club FC Seoul. He ultimately chose to return to South Korea to continue his career and education. After graduating from high school in 2006, he joined FC Seoul where he played alongside Lee Chung-yong. He eventually made his senior debut in 2007 during the K league.
In the end, he was a full international for South Korea from 2008 to 2019. With the team, which he led as captain, he participated in three Asian Cups. He also represented the country at two Summer Olympic Games, winning the bronze medal in 2012.
Since then, he has won the Scottish Cup and Scottish Premiere League with Celtic. He later announced that he will be retiring from international football in 2019.
6. Koo Ja-Cheol
Koo Ja-cheol is considered one of the most successful South Korean football players of all time. A midfielder, he currently plays for Jeju United. He’s also played for the German Bundesliga, alongside Son Heung-min and Cha Bum-kun, Mainz 05, FC Augsburg, and VFL Wolfsburg. Not only that but he was also the captain of the South Korean national team for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, where they won bronze.
Born on February 27, 1989, Koo started playing football at the age of ten after a nearby elementary school opened a football club. Back then, he mostly played as a defender. However, his abilities weren’t particularly outstanding.
Later as a high school student, he participated in a football competition in Baekrok, where he led the school team to win second place. His performance in the game also caught the attention of Jung Hae-seong, the manager of Jeju United. He was later selected by Jeju in 2007 during the K League draft. Due to numerous injuries, however, his performance was unremarkable. It wasn’t until 2010 that people started to notice his talent. Since then, he has received numerous donors including the Fantastic Player Award, Best XI Player Award, and Top Assists Award.
5. Ali Al Habsi
Ali Al-Habsi is an Omani football player that made his debut with Al-Mudhaibi in 1998. A goalkeeper, he ultimately stayed with the team for four years before transferring to Al-Nasr in 2002. From there, he transferred to Bolton Wanderers in 2006. However, many people expressed concerns about the transfer as there was a conflict of interest between his father, his agent, and the club itself. As a result, he did not make any appearances with the team during his first year. It wasn’t until 2007 that he made his full Bolton debut.
In 2010, he was loaned to Wigan Athletic, their local rivals. He subsequently made his debut in a League Cup match and was named player of the season. It was later announced in 2011 that he had joined Wigan Athletic permanently, having signed a £4 contract. It was around that same time that he himself as a penalty saver, having saved nearly half of all penalties faced.
Several years later, he was loaned to Brighton & Hove Albion. However, he ultimately played one game for the team before returning to Wigan. From there, he signed a three-year contract with Al-Hilal in 2017. However, he was ultimately released without ever having made an appearance in 2020. That same year, he announced his retirement from professional football.
4. Shinji Kagawa
Shinji Kagawa is a Japanese football player who plays as an attacking midfielder for the Japan national team and the Belgium First Division club Sint-Truiden. He’s often considered as one of the best Japanese players of all time.
Born and raised in Kobe, Hyogo, he started playing football when he was five years old. He later joined the Marino Football Club in 1994, with whom he played until 1999. From there, he joined the Kobe NK Football Club.
At the age of 17, his talent was noticed by Cerezo Osaka, who offered him a professional contract even before he completed high school. He ultimately accepted the offer and was given a regular position in 2007. That same year, he represented Japan as a member of the under-20 national team at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, which took place in Canada.
In 2008, he made his senior international debut where he and his team won against Ivory Coast. Later in 2013, he was named to Japan’s 23-member team for the FIFA Confederations Cup, where he ended up scoring the second goal for Japan during a match against Italy.
3. Lee Chung-Yong
Lee Chung-yong plays for the South Korean National Team and for Ulsan Hyundai as a winger. As a young teen, he caught the attention of Cho Kwang-rae, the manager of FC Seoul, while playing a game in middle school. Recognizing that he had massive potential, Cho offered him a contract on the spot.
Lee subsequently dropped out of school and joined FC Seoul, which was then known as Anyang LG Cheetahs. After being a substitute in the 2004 League Cup, he made his debut in the K League in 2006. With the team, he went on to hone his skills over the next several years.
In 2007, he broke into the first team after Senol Gunes joined FC Seoul as manager. The following year, he became a regular, scoring five goals and playing 22 league matches.
In 2009, it was announced that Lee Chung-yong would be joining the Bolton Wanderers. A £2.2 million transfer, it was officially confirmed that August. Around that same time, he made his first Bolton appearance in a match against Sunderland, where he scored the first goal. The team would go on to win 2-1.
Currently, he plays for the K League 1 club Ulsan Hyundai, which he signed for back in 2020. That same year, they won the 2020 AFC Champions League.
2. Keisuke Honda
Keisuke Honda is the coach and general manager of the Cambodia national team. Known for his powerful striking ability and dribbling skills, he usually plays as an attacking midfielder but can also play as a false nine, deep-lying playmaker, or winger. Throughout his career, he has earned more than 90 international caps and has played at the 2010, 2014, and 2018 World Cups. In 2011, he and his team also won the Asian Cup.
Born and raised in Osaka, he began his youth career at Gamba Osaka. After graduating high school, he joined Nagoya Grampus Eight, with whom he started his professional career.
After playing with them for three years, he signed a 2.5 year deal with VVV-Venlo. During the 2008-09 season, he made 36 league appearances and scored 16 goals. He was eventually transferred to CSKA Moscow in 2009. Since then, he has played for several other teams including AC Milan, Pachuca, Melbourne Victoria, and Vitesse. Most recently, he played for Suduva Marijampole in 2021. Not only that, but he was also a member of the Japan National Team from 2008 to 2018.
1. Park Ji Sung
Park Ji-sung is a former professional football player who played as a midfielder for several teams including Kyoto Purple Sanga, PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United, Queens Park Rangers, and PSV Eindhoven. Not only that but he was also a member of the South Korea National Team from 2000 to 2011. With them, he scored 13 goals and won 100 caps.
Known for his discipline and work ethic, he began his career in his native South Korea, where he played for Myongji University. From there, he eventually moved to Japan after signing with Kyoto Purple Sanga. After his manager for the national team moved to the Netherlands, Park followed him to the Dutch side. His talents were subsequently recognized by Sir Alex Ferguson, the manager of Mancester United, who offered him a £4 million contract.
Throughout his career, he has participated in several FIFA World Cups and was named man of the match four times at the World Cup. Currently, he’s South Korea’s all-time leading goalscorer at the World Cup, having scored goals in three tournaments in a row.