For the second year in a row, here at Football Channel Asia, we will track Asian football players playing in Europe. From Japan, South Korea and North Korea and China, all the way to Iran, Jordan, and Uzbekistan, Asian players have moved to Europe to advance their football career at football clubs in Europe. Out of 100 Asian players, many play in second division leagues of Europe, or top-flight leagues in Poland, Greece, and Austria which are not considered the elite European leagues.
At Football Channel Asia, we focused on 70 Asian players who currently play in top European leagues of England, Spain, Germany, Italy, France, Netherlands, Russia and Portugal as per UEFA coefficient ranking of top leagues.
The criteria are to select players who play in top-flight divisions in European countries.
Tracking all 70 players from the beginning of the season, in the months of August and September 2016, here are top 5 Asian players in elite football leagues based on performance and ratings. Players’ ranking includes considerations such as the number of goals scored, assists, their pass accuracy rate (%) and their rating*.
Sorted by highest Rating:
1. Son Heung-Min is a striker from English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur. The 24 years old striker who is in his second season at Tottenham, was not featured at all in August, but in September he was featured in all Tottenham matches, including a UEFA Champions League match against CSKA Moscow. During the month of September, Heung-Min scored 5 goals and provided one assist, and therefore had the high rating of 8.35 out of 10.
2. Maya Yoshida is another Asian player in English Premier League. The 28-year-old Japanese native was featured once for Southampton in Aug and three times in September, including matches at the Europa League. He was the second highest rated Asian player in Europe, with an average rating of 7.47 out of 10 in the months of August and September.
3. Alireza Jahanbakhsh is an Iranian striker from Dutch club AZ Alkmaar. The 23-year-old started his second season with the Eredivisie outfit aiming to become the team’s top scorer. In August, Jahanbakhsh was featured in all league games, as well as 3 Europa League appearances for AZ Alkmaar. He netted 2 goals, provided one assist, and was once selected as Man of the Match for his crucial winning goal against FC Utrecht. In September he netted one goal in two appearances. Therefore, his rating in August and September was 7.46 out of 10.
4. Brad Jones: The 34 year old Australian goalkeeper moved from NEC to Feyenoord in Dutch league during the Summer transfer. The goalkeeper quickly proved his worth by keeping clean sheets in 3 straight weeks in August and 4 games out of 5 games in September, including a crucial Europa League encounter against Manchester United. His rating currently stands at 7.32 out of 10.
5. Hiroki Sakai: The 26 year old Japanese midfielder is one of a few Asian players in French top-flight league, Ligue 1. He was featured in both August and September for Marseille and had impressive pass success ratio of 79%. Considering his positive impact at Ligue 1 side, he received the rating of 7.20 out of 10 in August and September.
*Source of Ratings: whoscored.com