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Top five greatest players to play in Japanese J1 league

Published at :June 14, 2023 at 6:53 PM
Modified at :June 14, 2023 at 6:53 PM
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Aditya Chauhan

The list also includes World Cup winners

The J1 League was officially started in 1993. Japan's top league began with 10 teams. Now the number of teams has been increased to 18. J1 League has been in a growing phase since then and has now become one of the biggest leagues in Asia. This has attracted a lot of foreign players. Some of them have previously played in different leagues, and others have featured in some of the top leagues in Europe and all around the world.

There are some players on a huge list of Japanese and foreign players who have achieved a lot of success in their careers. These players have left their mark on the world as well as in Japan. 

The list below features the top five players to have ever played in the Japanese top division. The players on the list are World Cup winners, Continental and European Cup winners, and winners of various club trophies all around the world.

5. Lukas Podolski (Germany) - Vissel Kobe (2017-2020)

Lukas Podolski was a World Cup winner with Germany in 2014. The 38-year-old is currently playing in the Polish top division. He started his career at FC Koln, and then Bayern Munich signed him. Podolski has represented Arsenal for three seasons in the Premier League. 

The German forward spent three seasons at Vissel Kobe. He represented the Japanese club in 60 matches and scored 17 goals. During his spell with Vissel Kobe, Podolski won the Emperor's Cup in 2019. 

The 38-year-old has also won the Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal with Bayern Munich in 2007-08, the FA Cup with Arsenal in 2013-14, and the Turkish Cup with Galatasaray in 2015-16. However, the biggest honour that he won will definitely be the FIFA World Cup glory.

4. Shunsuke Nakamura (Japan) - Yokohama F. Marinos (1997-2002, 2010-2016); Jubilo Iwata (2017-2019); Yokohama FC (2020-2021)

Shunsuke Nakamura is one of the greatest Japanese players ever. He retired from football in 2022 and is now the first-team coach at Yokohama FC. The 44-year-old is a profound figure in Japan as well as in Scotland. Nakamura's spell at Scottish Premiership side Celtic earned the Japanese player a lot of success.

The former Japanese player spent two different spells in Japan. He started his career at Yokohama F. Marinos and then had buried spells in the Serie A (Reggina), Scottish Premiership (Celtic), and LaLiga (Espanyol). Then the attacking midfielder returned to the J1 League. He joined his old club before joining Jubilo Iwata. 

Nakamura then joined Yokohama FC, who were in the J2 League. Yokohama FC earned a promotion in that season and played in the top flight for two seasons. Then they were once again relegated, and Nakamura played his final season in the J2 League. Nakamura made over 400 appearances in the J1 League.

During his time with Yokohama F. Marinos, Shunsuke Nakamura won the J League in 2001 and the Emperor's Cup in 2013. The Japanese player earned most of the silverware at Celtic. His side won the Scottish Premiership three times and the domestic cup once. With Japan, Nakamura won two AFC Asian Cups.

3. Fernando Torres (Spain) - Sagan Tosu (2018-2019)

Fernando Torres is another World Cup winner on the list. He was once one of the most lethal strikers in the Premier League. Torres started his career at Atletico Madrid and helped them earn a promotion to LaLiga. He then joined Liverpool and soon became one of the best strikers in the world. 

Then Chelsea signed him for a high fee, but this move didn't work in favour of the former Spanish striker. He struggled during his time with the Blues and then had brief spells at AC Milan and Atletico Madrid. Torres ended his career in the J1 League.

Fernando Torres played 35 J1 League games and scored five goals. He is a former World Cup winner and a two-time UEFA Euro Cup winner. Fernando Torres has also won the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League. He never won a first-division league title.

Also Read: Ranking the top 10 best football clubs in Asia currently 

2. David Villa (Spain) - Vissel Kobe (2019)

David Villa Odisha FC
Villa is one of the most lethal strikers in football history

David Villa is also one of the most lethal strikers in football. He started his career at Sporting Gijon and ended up playing for teams like Barcelona, Valencia, Atletico Madrid, New York City FC, and Vissel Kobe. Other than these clubs, he also represented Real Zaragoza and Melbourne City.

David Villa is a World Cup winner with Spain and also won the UEFA Euro championship in 2008. During his career, Villa won the LaLiga twice with Barcelona and once with Atletico Madrid. He also won the Champions League with the Catalan giants. Other than this, Villa collected one Copa del Rey each with Zaragoza and Valencia.

The Spanish striker only spent one season in Japan. He represented Vissel Kobe in 2019. Villa once again showed his class and scored 13 goals in 28 league games. He won the Emperor's Cup in that season.

1. Andres Iniesta (Spain) - Vissel Kobe (2018-2023)

One of the greatest midfielders of his time, Andres Iniesta has spent six seasons in Japan since leaving Barcelona. The scorer of Spain's winning goal in the FIFA World Cup 2010 final announced that he would leave the club in July.

Iniesta is also a two-time UEFA Euro Cup winner. The Spanish wizard spent 16 seasons with Barcelona's senior team and won nine LaLiga titles. He also added four Champions League winners' medals to his silverware tally.

After leaving Barcelona in 2018, Iniesta joined Vissel Kobe. The 39-year-old has played 113 games for the Japanese side and scored 21 goals. Andres Iniesta is an Emperor's Cup winner with Vissel Kobe in 2019 and a Japanese Super Cup winner in 2020.