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Best Asian Players in Premier League

Join us as we explore some of the best Asian players in Premier League history, highlighting their achievements and their lasting legacy

Asian players have made an unforgettable impact on the Premier League, showcasing their skill, talent, and tenacity on the pitch. From Park Ji-sung’s tireless work-rate to Son Heung-min’s sublime dribbling, these players have enthralled fans and inspired a new generation of footballers across the world. In this article, we delve deeper into the best Asian players to have ever played in the Premier League, celebrating their remarkable achievements, their unique style of play, and their lasting legacy in the game.

Our list of the best Asian players in Premier League history features players from South Korea, Japan, Iran, and Iraq, who have all played pivotal roles in their respective clubs’ success. These players have overcome cultural barriers and stereotypes to excel at the highest level. We take a closer look at their journeys to the Premier League, their most memorable moments on the pitch, and their contributions beyond football. Join us as we celebrate the best Asian players in Premier League history and their incredible legacy in the game.

Greatest Asian player in the Premier League

From Park Ji-sung’s tireless work ethic to Son Heung-min’s electrifying goalscoring ability, these players have etched their names in Premier League history and inspired a legion of fans across Asia and beyond. In this article, we take a closer look at the best Asian players in Premier League history and explore their remarkable impact on English football.

Ashkan Dejagah

Credit: Sky Sports

Iranian players usually find success in Bundesliga or the Primeira Liga but Ashkan Dejagah broke that mold, becoming one of the top Asian players in the Premier League during his stay at Fulham. The attacking midfielder joined the club in 2012 after several successful seasons with Wolfsburg and winning the Bundesliga. He then quickly became a fan favorite with his skillful left foot and impressive vision.

Dejagah’s dribbling ability, close control, and powerful left foot made him a threat every time he had the ball. He scored 6 goals for Fulham during his two-year stay, all of which came during his second season and under his former manager Felix Magath. Dejagah’s performances for Fulham during that season earned him widespread acclaim. He became the club’s Player of the Season in the 2013-14 season. 

Dejagah’s success in the Premier League was a source of pride for Iranian football fans, who saw him as a symbol of the country’s growing footballing prowess. For his skill, work ethic, and impact on Fulham, Ashkan Dejagah has become one of the best Asian players in Premier League. 

Read More: Best Young Iranian Football Players

Maya Yoshida

A Southampton stalwart and captain, Maya Yoshida is generally known as one of the best Asian players in Premier League history. The Japanese defender joined the Saints in 2012 and quickly established himself as a reliable defender with his physical presence, aerial ability, and intelligent reading of the game. 

Yoshida was a leader on and off the field, something that he showcased whenever he put on the Southampton captaincy armband. Yoshida’s success at Southampton earned him a reputation as one of the Premier League’s most reliable and consistent defenders. Although injuries plagued his career for a while, he remained a mainstay of the Saints’ defense for nearly a decade before leaving for Sampdoria in 2020. Yoshida holds the record for appearances in the Premier League for any Japanese player ever with 154. He has represented Southampton in 194 in all competitions, scoring 9 for the Saints.

Maya Yoshida deserves to be one of the best Asian players to have ever played in the Premier League. He remains a highly respected figure in Japanese football and a symbol of the growing influence of Asian footballers in the global game. Following his time at Southampton, Yoshida represented Sampdoria and Schalke 04 before settling into his current team, LA Galaxy.

Read More: Southampton History – All about the Club

Shinji Kagawa

Shinji Kagawa may not have spent as much time in the Premier League as some of his peers, but his impact during his two-year spell at Manchester United was remarkable. The Japanese midfielder joined the Red Devils from Borussia Dortmund in the summer of 2012, after helping the German side win back-to-back Bundesliga titles. United fans greeted his arrival at Old Trafford with great excitement and hoped he would be the creative spark that United needed to defend their Premier League crown.

Kagawa struggled to adapt to the physicality and intensity of the Premier League, initially. However, he showed glimpses of his immense talent, with his quick feet, sharp passing, and intelligent movement on and off the ball. He scored his first goal for United in a 3-2 win over Fulham and went on to score six goals in all competitions. Kagawa’s most memorable performance came in a 4-0 win over Norwich City, where he scored a hat-trick and won the Man of the Match award. Kagawa became teh first Asian player to ever score a hat-trick in the Premier League

Despite his undeniable talent, Kagawa’s time at United was cut short, as he returned to Dortmund in 2014. Nevertheless, his impact on the Premier League cannot be overlooked, as he paved the way for other Asian players to succeed in English football. He remains a fan favorite among United supporters, who still remember his moments of magic on the pitch. For his outstanding performances and contribution to the league, Shinji Kagawa deserves to be recognized as one of the best Asian players in Premier League history.

Sun Jihai

Credit: Khaleej Times

Former Chinese international defender, Sun Jihai, joined Manchester City back in 2002 and quickly established himself as a reliable and versatile player, capable of playing at both full-back and center-back. Sun played an important role in the club’s resurgence under manager Kevin Keegan, helping them to secure promotion to the Premier League in the 2001-02 season and establish themselves as a mid-table team in the top flight until Sheikh Mansour’s takeover in 2008.

But Sun’s impact on Manchester City went beyond his performances on the pitch. He was a pioneer for Asian footballers in the Premier League, breaking down barriers and paving the way for future generations of players. And he became the first Chinese player to ever play in the Premier League as well as the first one to score. He also achieved similar acclaim in the UEFA Cup. Sun’s success at Manchester City earned him a place in the hearts of the club’s fans, making him one of the best foreign players in Premier League from Asia.

One of the best Asian players in the Premier League to have ever played in the Premier League, Sun Jihai is now a proud business worth millions operating in the media sphere as well as dabbling in tech.

Ali Al Habsi

Credit: FIFA.com

Next up on our list of Best Asian players in Premier League, is the legendary Omani goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi. One of the first Asian keepers to find success in England, Habsi joined Bolton Wanderers in 2006 and although he never found his place at Bolton, he became a regular at Wigan Athletic later, spending over a decade in the Premier League

Al Habsi’s agility, reflexes, and commanding presence in the penalty area made him a tricky goalkeeper for stickers to handle. He made some incredible saves, especially against big sides, but the thing he was most known for was his incredible rate of penalty saves. During his career at Wigan, Ali Al-Habsi saved 50% of the penalties he faced from the likes of Carlos Tevez, Robin van Persie, Mikel Arteta, and Javier Hernandez. He played an important role in Wigan’s historic FA Cup run in the 2012-13 season, where the club managed to lift the trophy despite relegation in the Premier League.

Al Habsi was the first Omani player to ever play in the league, and his success paved the way for other players from the Middle East to follow in his footsteps. For his outstanding performances and pioneering role for Asian keepers in the Premier League, Ali Al Habsi deserves to be recognized as one of the best Asian players in Premier League. He remains a beloved figure among Wigan fans.

Ki Sung Yeong

Credit: Daily Express

As far as Asian players in the Premier League go, South Korean players have dominated. This is the case with Ki Sung-Yeung as well. The Korean midfielder joined Swansea City in 2012 after a couple of great seasons with Celtic. Ki Sung-Yeung then quickly established himself as a key player for the Welsh club with his technical ability, range of passing, and vision. 

Ki soon became a regular at Swansea, helping them mount a League Cup challenge. Although he failed to score in his debut season, he did help the club thrash Bradford City 5-0 in the final of the League Cup, winning his first trophy with the club. 

Ki’s success at Swansea earned him a loan move to Sunderland in his second season during the 2013-14 campaign, where he continued to impress with his technical ability and work rate. He scored some important goals for the Black Cats, including a stunning long-range strike against Chelsea.

He then returned to Swansea where he had the best season of his career during the 2014-15 campaign, scoring 8 goals in the league alone and being named the Swansea Player of the Season by the fans. Ki remained a regular at Swansea before transferring to Newcastle in 2018. He then played another season with Newcastle before he departed England to join LaLiga side Mallorca.

For his impact on Swansea and Sunderland, as well as grace and technique on the football pitch, Ki Sung-Yeung deserves to be recognized as one of the best Asian players in Premier League history. He remains a highly respected figure in Korean football, currently playing for the K  League side FC Seol since 2020.

Shinji Okazaki

Although most fans remember Jamie Vardy and Riyadh Mahrez, Leicester City’s fairytale story during the 2015-16 season had an Asian hero as well: Shinji Okazaki. The relentless Japanese striker was the one that made Vardy’s brilliance possible as he worked harder than any player to make room for the Englishman. 

Okazaki’s tireless work rate, intelligent movement, and ability to score important goals made him a key player for Leicester City during his four seasons with the club. He formed a deadly partnership with Jamie Vardy, with the two strikers terrorizing Premier League defenses with their pace, energy, and finishing ability. Okazaki’s success at Leicester earned him a place in the hearts of the club’s fans, who saw him as a symbol of the team’s fighting spirit and determination. 

For his impact on Leicester’s title-winning campaign, as well as his role as a cultural ambassador for Japan, Shinji Okazaki is one of the best Asian players in Premier League history. He remains a beloved figure in Leicester and a source of inspiration for football fans in Japan.

Read More: Leicester City History- All About the Club

Park Ji Sung

Credit: Goal.com

Park Ji-sung is widely regarded as one of the best Asian players to have ever played in the Premier League. The South Korean midfielder was vital in Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United team. He helped the Red Devils win four Premier League titles, three League Cups, and the Champions League during his seven-year stint at Old Trafford.

Known for his incredible work-rate, tenacity, and versatility, Park was a fan favorite at United, and his tireless performances earned him the nickname “Three-Lung Park.” He was a tactical genius, and Ferguson often deployed him to man-mark some of the Premier League’s best players, including Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas and Chelsea’s Andrea Pirlo.

Park’s most memorable moment in a United shirt came in the 2009 Champions League quarter-final against Arsenal, where he scored a crucial goal in the 3-1 victory that sent the Red Devils into the semi-finals. He was also instrumental in United’s 2010-11 Premier League title win, scoring important goals against Liverpool and Arsenal and providing several assists throughout the campaign.

Beyond his achievements on the pitch, Park was also a trailblazer for Asian players in the Premier League. Park Ji-sung’s impact as one of the greatest Asian players in the Premier League cannot be overstated. He was a hardworking and intelligent player who played a crucial role in one of the league’s most successful teams. He was a symbol of hope for aspiring Asian footballers, proving that with hard work, determination, and talent, anything is possible.

Son Heung Min

credit: Goal.com

Son Heung-min is one of the most electrifying footballers to have ever played in the Premier League. The South Korean superstar has been a vital player for Tottenham Hotspur since his arrival in 2015 and has become a fan favorite among the Spurs faithful. In terms of talent and performances, there are no Asian players that could top the South Korean wizard in the Premier League history.

Son’s speed, dribbling skills, and clinical finishing have made him one of the deadliest attacking players in the league. The mercurial Korean has scored some breathtaking goals, including a stunning solo effort against Burnley in 2019 that won the Premier League Goal of the Season award. But Son’s impact on the pitch goes beyond his goalscoring ability. He is a tireless worker, tracking back to help his team defensively and pressing high up the pitch to win the ball back. He is a team player, always looking to create opportunities for his teammates and putting the needs of the team above his own.

An Asian footballing legend

Son has won several individual awards during his time in the Premier League. Son won Tottenham’s Player of the Year on three separate occasions, 2018/19, 2020/21 and 2021/22. He was also named the Premier League Player of the Month four times and is recognized as one of the best players in Asia, winning the Asian Football Confederation’s International Player of the Year award three times. But to top it all off, Son Heung Min is the only Asian player to ever win the Premier League Golden Boot trophy, which he did so in the 2021/22 season.

Son Heung-min has established himself as one of the best foreign players in Premier League. Following Harry Kane’s departure, Son has taken up his mantle of captaincy and continues to dazzle fans with his performances and inspire a new generation of footballers across Asia and beyond. As far as talents go, Son is up there with Ali Daei and Ali Karimi as one of the most talented Asian players in history, and unlike those two, he is making his mark in possibly the best league ever!

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Ethan Dempsey
Ethan Dempsey
Ethan is a lifelong football fan. When he is not obsessing over the Premier League games, Ethan likes to read fantasy tomes, watch football documentaries and waste hours upon hours on video games.
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