Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Europe's 10 best transfers from Asia of the season 2010-11

It's been a big year for Asian football with the 2011 Asian Cup headlining the return of Japan as the dominant force on the continent.

The tournament itself in Qatar saw the unearthing of a number of potential future superstars of the game, with some European clubs having had the foresight to have snapped up these gems before the competition rolled around, whilst others were quick to sign up those who made an impression.

This list is exclusively East Asian with the exception of one Australian player and perhaps is reflective of the region's dominance of football at domestic and international level in recent years. Gone are the days where the likes of Ali Karimi was the most recognisable Asian face in Europe...

The top few places in particular are taken up by players who are fast becoming important names in the development of Asian football and its expose across Europe. One joined the champions-elect in Germany, one the European champions and one remains in the Champions League going into the final stages.


10) Mitch LANGERAK



Appearances: 1

Goals Conceded: 1
Borussia Dortmund from Melbourne Victory -£573,000

Has made only one appearance for Borussia Dortmund and for that reason is a surprise inclusion in this list. But when you consider that Dortmund paid just over £573,000 for a goalkeeper who seems set to one day become Australia's first-choice No.1, it increasingly seems another bargain for the Bundesliga leaders.

That said, the only time he has turned out for the senior team was against Bayern Munich in a 3-1 win, when he delivered an excellent performance deputising for the injured Roman Wedenfeller. Appears to have a huge future ahead of him at the tender age of just 22.

9) Koo JA-CHEOL



Appearances: 9
Goals Scored: 0

Assists: 1
Wolfsburg from Jeju United - £1.7m

Hardly set the Bundesliga alight since joining Wolfsburg in the January transfer window, largely being reduced to appearances off the bench and being hauled off even when he does start. At £1.7 million though he does seem to be a bargain, given - like Langerak before him - he's an investment for the future.

The 22-year-old set alight the Asian Cup earlier this year with a string of outstanding performances for South Korea, top-scoring at the tournament. Boasts excellent vision, sharp passing, a tireless work ethic and a knack for finding the back of the net, as evidenced in Qatar.

8) Ki SUNG-YUENG



Appearances: 20Goals Scored: 3

Assists: 2
Celtic from FC Seoul - £1.8m

Didn't strictly join the Parkhead club at the beginning of this season but is enjoying his first full campaign with the club in earnest. Another young South Korean charger who looks to be a smart investment for the future, he has had a solid introduction to Scottish football.

Voted Young Player of the Month in October, he has nailed down a starting spot for himself and adapted well to life in a physically demanding competition that isn't particularly kind to foreigners.

7) Akihiro IENAGA



Appearances: 9Goals Scored: 1

Assists: 0
Mallorca from Cerezo Osaka - Undisc.

The midfielder wasn't one of the high-profile movers from the Asian continent at the turn of the year but he has quietly gone about his business in La Liga. Hasn't started many matches but looks like he's beginning to adapt to the rigours of Spanish football after netting against Sevilla recently.

He's turned in the odd impressive performance as well and at 24 has plenty of time to mature as a footballer. Looks Japan's best chance of a success story in Spain yet.

6) Michihiro YASUDA


Appearances: 12Goals Scored: 0
Assists: 0
Vitesse Arnhem from Gamba Osaka - Undisc.

One of a few Japanese players plying their trade in the Netherlands at the moment, Yasuda is certainly one of the most impressive. Hasn't proven to be particularly reliable at the back but nonetheless has nailed down a starting spot by virtue of his attacking talents.

Vitesse aren't a club known for stability - nicknamed 'Hollywood at the Rhine' for a reason - but 23-year-old Yasuda has a bright future ahead of him after making a good start to life in the Eredivisie.

5) Son HEUNG-MIN

Appearances: 10Goals Scored: 3
Assists: 0
Hamburg from N/A - Signed prof. contract

Technically wasn't poached by Hamburg this season but they did have the foresight to offer Son his first professional contract and it immediately paid dividends, as the attacker backed up his excellent pre-season form with some stellar performances in the Bundesliga.

Though he has since been brought back down to earth after losing his first-team spot, the teenager has been highlighted as a future star of both European and Asian football, even receiving praise from German legend Franz Beckenbauer.

4) Ryo MIYAICHI


Appearances: 10Goals Scored: 3
Assists: 2
Feyenoord from Arsenal - On Loan

Named man-of-the-match in his debut appearance for struggling Dutch giants Feyenoord and ever since that bright display has helped steer the club away from the relegation zone.

Though he went through a bit of a rough patch after bursting out of the blocks, he bounced back recently with an excellent performance against Willem II, scoring two and setting up two in his side's 6-1 home win. Those sorts of contributions have helped turn Feyenoord's season around and when you consider he was snapped up on loan, it's a very astute piece of business.

 3) Atsuto UCHIDA

Appearances: 23Goals Scored: 0
Assists: 0
Schalke from Kashima Antlers - £1.14m

The right-back has proven to be a bargain and after being initially pencilled in as merely a squad player, the young defender has impressed and is likely to retain his starting role when Tim Hoogland returns from injury.

Uchida struggled in his first few weeks in the Bundesliga but has steadily progressed over the course of the season and was man-of-the-match in Schalke's recent match against Werder Bremen. He appears to have a bright future ahead of him in Gelsenkirchen and has a UEFA Champions League semi-final and DFB-Pokal final to come.

2) Yuto NAGATOMO


Appearances: 9Goals Scored: 1
Assists: 0
Inter from Cesena - On Loan

Initially signed on-loan by Cesena from FC Tokyo at the beginning of the season, it wasn't long before this pocket-rocket full-back was contracted fully by the Serie A club, only for defending champions Inter to take him on during the January transfer window.

Has proven to be an inspired signing by the Milan club and has surely done enough to earn himself a permanent move after injecting some much needed life into their domestic campaign. Has the potential to become a world-class player at San Siro.

1) Shinji KAGAWA


Appearances: 17Goals Scored: 8
Assists: 1
Borussia Dortmund from Cerezo Osaka -€300,000

Blink and you could have missed Kagawa's move from Cerezo Osaka to Borussia Dortmund at the beginning of this season, the little-known attacking midfielder was not even one of the club's most notable signings.

Yet he has proven to be one of the steals of the season across European football, at the heart of Dortmund's early campaign as they established their title credentials. Injury at the Asian Cup has curtailed his contributions but he will return soon with a host of big-name suitors no doubt monitoring this prodigious talent.

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