5 of the best players based in Asia

November 29th, 2013

Elkeson Guangzhou Evergrande

Elkeson has, without doubt, taken China by storm. 31 goals in all competitions in your debut season isn’t half bad. Scoring in both legs of the Asian Champions League Final to give your side their first ever title is pretty decent too. The €5.7m Guangzhou paid for him last December seems like an absolute bargain now.

Technically superb, skillful, composed on the ball; Elkeson is everything you expect from a Brazilian player. Comfortable on either foot, he’s adept at losing his marker thanks to a wonderful first touch. He’s an excellent dribbler of the ball and has superb close control, as well as good pace. He even knocks in a few goals with his head for good measure too.

Although always a bulky player, he seems leaner and more athletic nowadays, while still looking strong. It would take at least €10-15m to sign him now and, let’s face it, with a weekly wage of close to €40k he probably isn’t bursting to leave, but due to Guangzhou’s dominance the Chinese Super League has been a decidedly one horse race this year. While the quality is improving, one fears that a prolonged stay in China could do more harm than good to Elkeson’s ability. At only 24 he’s still far from reaching his true potential, which is something that should attract Spanish, Italian and Portuguese clubs. We wouldn’t be surprised to see him lining up for someone like Porto, Atlético Madrid or Napoli in a few years time.


Yoichiro Kakitani Cerezo Osaka

What’s the first position you think of when someone mentions a Japanese footballer? Skillful attacking midfielder (Nakata, Nakamura, Honda, Kagawa)? Quick, nimble fullback (Nagatomo, Uchida)? It definitely isn’t striker that’s for sure. While Japan as a footballing nation continues to grow and improve year upon year, the reality is that they have always lacked proven, quality strikers. With that in mind, the nation may well find themselves turning to the boy from Cerezo Osaka for goals when they begin their journey in Brazil this summer.

Young, hungry and with a blossoming reputation, Yoichiro Kakitani is in prime position to profit from his country’s dearth in striking talent. 25 goals in all competitions this year and only 23 years of age, Kakitani is making fans across the continent sit up and take notice. His quick feet, genuine pace, and composure in front of goal have seen him terrorise J.League defences all season – especially when combining at speed with his partner in crime Hotaru Yamaguchi (also in the National team).

Kakitani’s abilities are best displayed on the counter attack, when he has space to run, with the ball or without. He’s a solid dribbler, but also possesses adept skill at beating an offside trap with intelligent running.

Aerially he could improve, and many would argue that he isn’t strong enough to succeed in Europe, but with the path already well-trodden by his equally slender compatriots that argument seems to get weaker as time goes on. We think the Bundesliga would be perfect for him – think Dortmund, Leverkusen, Mönchengladbach or even Hertha Berlin.


Omar Abdulrahman Al Ain

Omar Abdulrahman is pure class. The Emirati Mesut Özil, he seems to slow down time before finding that pin-point pass – with the inside or outside of his boot. The range and technique of his passing is incredible, and he’s an excellent dribbler too, with superb close control. Abdulrahman suits the deep-lying playmaker role to a tee. Where other players thump and whack the ball, Abdulrahman caresses and coaxes it.

After impressing immensely at the London Olympics, Manchester City were close to signing him, only for his work permit application to be rejected. They continue to remain keen. How nobody else has signed him yet is a mystery. At only 22 he’s far from the finished article, which is quite a scary thought.

His slight physique would perhaps see him struggle initially in the Premier League, although he could flourish at a more technically-gifted side like Arsenal (who are rumoured to be interested), rather than a mid-table team/relegation scrapper.


Ibrahim Ghaleb Al-Nassr

Calm and collected on the ball, Ibrahim Ghaleb has an old head on young shoulders. The 23 year old has bags of energy and is strong in the tackle, but his real strength lies in his distribution. Ghaleb is the Quarterback, a gifted passer of the ball, who can carve open the opposition with direct and precise long balls. He acts as the focal point for his team both defensively and offensively, and prefers to slow down play in order to spot the runs of his team mates.

Weaknesses? Saudi Arabia isn’t world renowned for its domestic football, and he wouldn’t be given with the same amount of time on the ball in a stronger league. Time will tell if he’s destined for bigger things, but, historically, with Saudi footballers being reluctant to leave their home country, it remains to be seen if Ghaleb will defy convention. In our opinion, the French league would suit him well.


Muriqui Guangzhou Evergrande

Top scorer and MVP in this season’s Asian Champions League, he may not have scored in the Final, but he certainly played a huge role in his club’s continental success. Combining with compatriot Elkeson, Muriqui’s ferocious pace tormented right backs over Asia as he cut in from the left wing and onto his favoured right foot. The type of player to make things happen, to add that bit of dynamism and spark when the team most needs it, Muriqui is a fan favourite – due in no small part to his consistency over his 3 year stint in China. 24 goals in all competitions this year was an all time high for the journeyman Brazilian, who played for no fewer than 10 club sides in Brazil before his move abroad in 2010. At 27 years of age he is heading into his prime and shows no sign of slowing down. Once he’s gone, you’re not catching him.

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