Europe is admittedly the center of football. It is the dream of every aspiring professional footballer to play for the biggest sides in top leagues like the English Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1, and Bundes Liga.
Fixtures involving these sides are globally savored and featured on top bookmaker platforms (including crypto bookmaker sites) for a teeming global audience.
Interestingly, Asian footballers are increasingly enjoying success in Europe, playing in the biggest competitions.
This article extensively analyses the five most successful Asian footballers to play in Europe.
Cha Bum-Kun – South Korea
Cha Bum-Kun is one of the greatest Asian players ever in Europe. Born on 22 May 1953, he is known for his thick thighs, rapid pace, and powerful shots throughout his career.
In 1978, Cha Bum-Kun started his European adventure with SV Darmstadt 98 after his impressive performance in the Asian games that same year. However, he only had one cap with the German club because he was ordered back to South Korea to finish his mandatory military service.
In July 1979, he joined the German club Eintracht Frankfurt after his military service. He started making an impact at the club, scoring consecutively in the 3rd to 5th game of the season.
He led Frankfurt to their first-ever UEFA Cup and DFB Pokal cup. He scored 46 goals in 122 games, being the club’s top scorer for 3 seasons before joining Bayer Leverkusen in 1983.
At Leverkusen, he helped them win their first-ever UEFA Cup in 1988 against Espanyol. He retired in 1989, scoring 52 in 185 appearances. Cha Bum-Kun scored 58 times in 152 caps becoming South Korea’s highest goal scorer. He managed many clubs after his retirement and is often regarded as the greatest Asian player in Europe.
Paulino Alcantara – Philippines
Paulino Alcantara is a Philippines striker who debuted for FC Barcelona in 1912 against Catala SC. He scored the first three goals in the match, becoming the youngest ever to represent and also score a goal for the club.
Alcantara also scored a record 369 goals in 357 games for Barcelona, a record which stood for 87 years before Lionel Messi broke it in 2014.
Meanwhile, he led Barcelona to 17 trophies between 1912 and 1927 despite returning to the Philippines in 1916. Playing for Bohemian, he won two Philippine Championships for them. He returned to Barcelona in 1919 and kept his top form. At the international level, he represented Catalonia, the Philippines, and Spain, scoring 26 goals in 20 caps.
In 1927, Alcantara retired from football to become a medical doctor at 31. He returned to Barcelona in 1931 as sports director before becoming Spain’s coach in 1951. FIFA named him ‘Best Asian Player of All Time’ in 2007.
Park Ji-Sung – South Korea
Park Ji-Sung was a formal midfield Maestro for South Korea and Manchester United. The Asian was part of the famous Sir Alex Ferguson, who won the 2008 UEFA Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup.
He is the first Asian to win these trophies. JS Park is known for his high endurance level and his ability to play anywhere across the midfield.
His European career started in 2003 in PSV Eindhoven, where he won two Dutch championships. He scored 13 goals in 65 games before joining Manchester United in 2005.
In 134 appearances, Park scored 19 goals in his 7 seasons for Manchester United. He won four English Premier leagues among his 19 trophies.
JS Park represented the South Korean National team 100 times, including in 2002, 2006, and 2010 FIFA World Cup, scoring in the 3 editions. His total tally for South Korea was 23 goals.
He was nominated for Ballon d’Or in 2005 and was named ‘Best Asian Player in Europe’ on FIFA.com 2 years later. Park Ji-Sung is the most decorated Asian player in Europe.
Son Heung-min – South Korea
Son Heung-min is a South Korean and Tottenham Hotspur forward who is known for his pace, link play, goal prowess, and ability to use both legs. Born 8 July 1992, Son moved to Hamburger SV in 2010 at 16 years old. He scored 21 times in 79 games before Joining Bayer Leverkusen in 2013, where he also scored 21 times in 62 games.
He joined Tottenham in 2015 for £22 million and is currently the highest Asian goal scorer in both English Premier League and UEFA Champions League. He lost the 2019 Champions League final to Liverpool, becoming the second Asian to reach the final. Son was the joint 2021/2022 top scorer in the Premier league.
Son has represented South Korea in 3 World Cups (2014, 2018 & 2022) and is South Korea’s joint World Cup top scorer with Ji-Sung.
The Tottenham forward was nominated for FIFA Ballon d’Or in 2019 and won the Puskas award in 2020. Son Heung-min has scored 35 times in 108 games for South Korea.
Ali Daei – Iran
Ali Daei was an Iranian striker who was lethal in front of the goal for Iran. Born on 21 March 1969, he moved to Europe in 1997 when German side Arminia Bielefeld signed him following his impressive performance in Asia.
He was well-known for his headers and his record 109 international goals for Iran before Christiano Ronaldo overtook him in 2021.
Ali Daei won one Bundesliga title with Bayern Munich, even though his European club football wasn’t as fruitful as expected. He scored 6 goals in 23 games for Bayern Munich and 19 goals in 107 appearances in Germany before leaving in 2002. Regardless, Ali Daei is recognized as one of the greatest Asian Footballers of all time.
Many great Asian football players have grazed Europe with their exceptional talents. This article has listed some. However, Son Heung-min, Takumi Minamino, and many others are still actively playing. We believe the Asian best is yet to be seen in Europe.