Breaking into the lucrative Far East market has often been seen as an extremely profitable business venture for many European football clubs; a large enthusiastic population of keen football supporters all eager to support the greatest and most prestigious clubs. While Japan’s J-League is developing and changing on a frequent basis, the lure of European football is often hard to resist. It’s the place to play as a professional footballer, and as a fan of the sport it’s the place to watch your favourite players flaunting their tricks and skills on a weekly basis.
Whether you like it or not football is a business, and large profit margins bring financial stability. Breaking into the overseas markets of Asia and the USA is of top priority to a vast number of clubs. Arsène Wenger has admitted in the past that he prefers to not play pre-season friendlies in the Far East, but has decided to venture there more and more as the years have passed by. Indeed, Arsenal played a pre-season friendly against Kitchee in Hong Kong last year for the first time in seventeen years. The Frenchman also confessed to www.arsenal.com in January this year: “I find that a new market that is very interesting and very competitive is the Japanese market. Look at the number of Japanese players who play now in Germany for example.”
Times have changed however. Not only is there money to be made from the Asian market, but there is an incredible array of talent to be found too; talented individuals all keen to impress on European soil.
Squawka selects five of the best Asian players currently plying their trade throughout the top-5 leagues in Europe.