These footballers are already making their presence known in the world of the sport.
Football in Asia has undergone a drastic development over the past few years. The last decade have witnessed many Asian players coming up, with some of them even going on to represent some of the best football teams in the world.
Thanks to some highly talented youngsters, Asian Football continues to remain on the rise. However, the quality of their game continues to be measured in relation to Europe’s best leagues like the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1 – which are regarded as centers of footballing excellence.
Here are the top five young Asian players who have the ability to excel in European clubs.
5. Hwang In-beom (South Korea)
Hawng In-beom is midfielder who is based at South Korea. He currently plays for Vancouver Whitecaps FC in the Major League Soccer (MLS), the USA’s top footballing league.
In-beom was born on September 20, 1996, and at the age of 20, he joined K League 2 club Daejeon Hana Citizen in 2015. With his maiden goal for the club a few weeks later, he became the youngest scorer in their history. After registering 16 goals and 13 assists for them across 95 appearances in two years, he was signed by Asan Mugunghwa with who he played 18 matches.
In 2019, In-beom joined Major League Soccer side Vancouver Whitecaps FC as a Young Designated Player on a two-year contract. He made his debut for them against Minnesota United on 2 March and scored his first goal in a 1–0 win over Los Angeles FC on 17 April. He has played 37 matches for them so far, and also recorded four goals and three assists.
The 23-year-old is also a regular in the Republic of Korea national team. In the 2018 Asian Games where their U-23 team won the gold medal, he played a vital role which led to his promotion to the senior team. In-beom made his senior international debut in September 2018, and has scored three goals from 23 appearances with them so far.
4. Jun Nishikawa (Japan)
Cerezo Osaka midfielder Jun Nishikawa is another notable addition to this list, having excelled for both club and country in the last two years.
Born on February 21, 2002, Nishikawa is also the youngest player in this list. Due to only a handful of senior appearances, little is known about the attacking midfielder. However, based on what has been observed from match footages of Japan’s academy sides, he has the ability to also play on the right-wing and as center-forward.
So far, he has made one and three appearances for Cerezo Ozaka’s U-23 team and senior team respectively, and has contributed two assists in all. He has also played for Japan’s U-17 (4 matches, 3 goals) and U-20 sides (6 matches), and has been actively scouted by the likes of Barcelona, RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen, as per reports in Japan.
3. Kim Min-jae (South Korea)
At just 23 years old, Kim Min-jae’s nickname “Monster” might seem a bit too much – but standing quite tall at 1.90m, he is undoubtedly a giant in defence. A center-back by trade, he hails from South Korea and currently plays for the Chinese Super League (CSL) club Beijing Guoan.
Born on November 15, 1996, Min-jae hails from a family that has a fairly impressive sporting background. Both his parents are former athletes while his brother is a goalkeeper at the university level in South Korea. Min-jae started his football career with the Tongyeong Elementary School football club, before joining the Suwon Technical High School team which has produced many international footballers such as Park Ji-sung and Kim Sun-Min.
In July 2016, he joined Gyeongju KHNP who went on to reach the semi-finals of the Korea National League the same year. In December, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors signed him. He went on to play in 60 matches for them and also lifted the K League in 2017 and 2018 with them. In 2019, he moved to Beijing Guoan and has since made 34 appearances for them till date.
Min-jae was also a part of the South Korea team that won the Asian Games gold medal in 2018 and the EAFF Championship in 2019. Some of his top individual honours include the K League Young Player of the Year (2017), K League 1 Best XI (2017, 2018), AFC Asian Cup Team of the Tournament (2019) and the EAFF Championship Best Defender (2019).
2. Nguyen Quang Hai (Vietnam)
Considered one among the best Asian players of recent times, Nguyen Quang Hai is a midfielder by trade.
Born on April 12, 1997, Quang Hai’s earliest claim to fame came in 2012, which is when he got called up for the 2012 AFC U-16 Championship Qualification at age of only 14. Two years later, he made his debut for his country’s U-19 side. Thanks to his valuable contributions in the 2016 AFC U-19 Championship, Vietnam earned a spot in the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup. Soon afterward, he was promoted to their U-23 team.
In the 2018 AFC U-23 Championship, Quang Hai scored five goals from the midfield. Although Vietnam lost in the final against Uzbekistan, his goal in the game was voted the best goal of the tournament. In the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, he played a key role in Vietnam’s victories, and was thus nominated to the list of the ten best U-21 players in the tournament.
As far as his club career is concerned, the 23-year-old plays for Hanoi FC, who compete in V.League 1 – the top professional football league in Vietnam. Overall, he has played 56 matches for them, scoring 13 goals while recording 15 assists as well till date.
1. Almoez Ali (Qatar)
Almoez Ali Zainalabiddin Abdullah, shortly referred to as Almoez Ali, hails from Qatar. One of the best Asian players of his generation, he holds the record of the most goals scored in an AFC Asian Cup, having scored nine goals in the most recent edition of the competition held in 2019.
The 23-year-old was born in Sudan on August 19, 1996, and moved to Qatar as a child. He spent his earliest years with the youth teams of Al-Mesaimeer, Aspire Academy, Lekhwiya SC and the Belgian club Eupen. In July 2015, Ali joined the senior team of Austrian club LASK Linz and scored a goal for them before moving to Spanish Segunda B division (third-tier) club Cultural Leonesa six months later.
In April 2016, he became the first-ever Qatari footballer to score in a Spanish league, after netting the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Arandina. Ahead of the 2016-17 season, Ali rejoined his former youth club Lekhwiya SC, who went on to win the Qatar Stars League (QSL) on the back of the eight goals and eight assists he recorded during their campaign.
In the following season, Almoez Ali was part of the newly rebranded Al-Duhail SC formed by the merger between Lekhwiya and El Jaish. Al-Duhail won the QSL that season, and a year later, he was named a part of the Qatar football team that went on to lift the AFC Asian Cup.
Overall, he has made 156 appearances for club and country so far, and has scored 53 goals in total. Two of his best results till date would be the four goals he scored against North Korea in the AFC Asian Cup on January 13, 2019, and the match-saving equalizer he scored against Paraguay in the Copa America on June 17, 2019.
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