Over the last 100+ years in football, the world has been dominated by mainly European and South American footballers. However, over time top class footballers have emerged from the likes of Africa, Asia and North America.
Many players from all over the globe have become champions in the Premier League. Only three Asian footballers have won the Premier League, however. In this article, we’ll detail every Asian player to win the Premier League, how they did it and where they are now.
Park Ji-Sung was the first Asian player to win the Premier League when he helped Manchester United win the league in 2006/2007. He had joined the club from PSV Eindhoven in a big move years prior, off the back of an impressive World Cup in his home country of South Korea in 2002.
He won four Premier League titles with Manchester United, including three in a row between 2007 and 2009. Never valued for his goal scoring record, having netted only 19 times in the league in 134 games, it was his pressing and defensive work that made him a key part of the side. He was always the first name on the team sheet for big games for United, with his unlimited stamina a key for shutting down the opponent with his endless pressing abilities.
As well as his four Premier League titles, Park Ji-Sung also won the Champions League with Manchester United in 2008. He is the only Asian player to win the Champions League so far, and you can click the link below to read more about that.
Park Ji-Sung retired from football in 2014.
Signing for Manchester United in 2012 on the back of an incredible season with Borussia Dortmund, the hype behind Shinji Kagawa was enormous. The Japanese star was one of the best attacking midfielders in the Bundesliga, scoring 13 league goals to help fire Borussia Dortmund to the Bundesliga title the year prior. He was hopeful to be the missing piece of the puzzle to slot in behind Wayne Rooney to fire Manchester United to the Premier League title again.
He was the first Japanese player to ever play for the club, signing for a deal worth up to £17 million. However, his move was followed by Sir Alex Ferguson signing Arsenal striker Robin Van Persie, in one of the biggest moves of the summer. Signing a new forward meant that Wayne Rooney would be pushed back to number 10, limiting the number of minutes Kagawa would have in the position. He spent some time playing on the wing but it was clearly not the best position for the Japanese star.
He became the first Asian player to score a hat-trick in the Premier League when he netted an impressive treble against Norwich in March 2013. He also played a big part in Manchester United’s 3-0 victory over Aston Villa later that year – Van Persie scored a hat-trick of his own to secure the title for Manchester United in what would be Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season as a manager.
This win secured Kagawa’s medal, having played 20 Premier League matches in the campaign. He became the first Japanese player to win the Premier League and the second Asian player to receive a winner’s medal. He returned to Dortmund two seasons later and now players Belgium for Limburg side Sint-Truiden.
The last Asian player to win the Premier League was during Leicester’s incredible title winning season in 2015/16. Led by the delightful Claudio Ranieri, the unlikely underdogs flipped the 5000/1 odds to lift the Premier League trophy in way – a big part of that being the contribution to Shinji Okazaki.
He famously scored a spectacular overhead kick against Newcastle, although his contribution to the cause was much more understated the his peers. While Mahrez, Vardy and Kante took the main plaudits for the incredible achievement, it was the hard word done by the likes of Drinkwater, Fuchs and Okazaka that helped make the dream a reality.
The Japanese striker signed for the club that summer in a £7 million deal. He was expected to be behind Vardy and Ulloa in the pecking order, but soon formed an undroppable partnership with the Englishman that saw them net 29 goals between then (Okazaki – 5, Vardy – 24).
Their historic title win, which was confirmed when Chelsea defeated Tottenham as the squad watched from Jamie Vardy’s house, made Shinji Okazaki the second Japanese player to win the Premier League, and the third ever Asian holder of the historic trophy. He also became the first non-Manchester Untied Asian player to lift the trophy, which is a shocking stat in itself. He now plays in Belgium for Limburg side Sint-Truiden alongside Shinji Kagawa.