Even though Asian football still has plenty of ground to cover in terms of quality, stature and reputation, the continent has never been devoid of world-class talent. In the past, we have seen many Asian footballers like Shinji Kagawa, Park Ji-Sung, Yuto Nagatomo and Ali Dei take up key positions in some of the biggest clubs in the world, winning numerous trophies in the process.
The current generation of Asian footballers are not far behind them in quality and some of them have already made a name for themselves in the European landscape by representing big clubs.
With all that in mind, let us take a look at the ten most valuable Asian footballers in the world right now: (Transfer value courtesy Transfermarkt)
#10 Wu Lei (China/RCD Espanyol) - €8 million
The only Chinese international currently plying his trade in one of Europe's top five leagues, Wu Lei arrived at Espanyol in 2018 after 14 successful years playing in his home country. The winger has made 49 appearances for the club in all competitions during which he netted 10 goals.
Lei may still be an unknown player in La Liga but he enjoys legendary status in China - he's the second all-time scorer in the country's top-tier league with 102 goals and the youngest ever debutante at just 14!
#9 Daichi Kamada (Japan/Eintracht Frankfurt) - €8 million
Daichi Kamada is one of the most highly-rated youngsters in Japan. After his breakthrough in the indigenous J1 league, the 23-year-old starred in the Belgian league with Sint-Truiden before Bundesliga's Eintracht Frankfurt secured his services in 2017.
Kamada only bagged his maiden league goal in Frankfurt's recent draw to SC Freiburg but he has been phenomenal in the Europa League, netting six times so far this term, including a brace against Arsenal at the Emirates and a hat-trick against RB Salzburg.
#8 Takumi Minamino (Japan/Liverpool) - €10 million
Now here's a player you might have heard of. Takumi Minamino joined Liverpool from RB Salzburg earlier this year but is yet to start a Premier League game for the club. Nevertheless, the Japanese youngster has been capped seven times overall, featuring prominently in cup games, but he has not opened his account for the Reds just yet.
#7 Hwang Hee-chan (South Korea/FC Red Bull Salzburg) - €10 million
Hwang Hee-chan was in top form for Red Bull Salzburg once again this season and particularly garnered plaudits for his menacing partnership with Erling Haaland and Takumi Minamino in the Champions League. Overall, he has scored 13 times and assisted further 16 goals in 29 appearances this season, making him the most prolific active player in the squad.
Even though he did not find marquee suitors like his former attacking cohorts, Hee-chan will soon be on the radar of the biggest clubs in Europe if he continues in the same vein.
#6 Takehiro Tomiyasu (Japan/Bologna FC) - €13 million
Takehiro Tomiyasu arrived at Bologna last summer and quickly established himself in the team's machinations. He won the Man of the Match award on his official debut before claiming August's Player of the Month prize in Serie A.
Fast, ambidextrous and physically imposing, the 21-year-old defender garnered superlatives from his fans and the Italian media for his consistently impressive performances. It certainly looks like it's only a matter of time before he, too, is pillaged away by bigger and mightier clubs.
#5 Lee Kang-in (South Korea/Valencia) - €13.5 million
Lee Kang-in moved to Valencia in 2011 at the age of 10 and after impressing at various youth levels, was promoted to the senior side in 2018. He featured prominently for the side in cup games and was also a part of the squad that won the Copa Del Rey last year.
The midfielder has featured more regularly this season and his creative ability, tactical awareness and passing accuracy have even drawn him parallels to David Silva. He opened his account for the Spanish giants by netting in their 3-3 draw to Getafe back in September.
#4 Takefusa Kubo (Japan/RCD Mallorca) - €13.5 million
Takefuso Kubo made headlines after signing for Real Madrid last year. He participated in the Spanish titans' pre-season tours to the US and Germany before being sent out on loan to Mallorca at the start of the 2019-20 season.
The 18-year-old instantly established himself with the Barralets and has made 25 appearances, contributing six goals overall.
The Japanese prodigy has attracted attention for his dribbling skills and his penchant for attempting shots from range, with his passing accuracy also another standout feature.
#3 Sardar Azmoun (Iran/Zenit St.Petersburg) - €14.5 million
Sardar Azmoun was hailed as Iran's next big thing when he burst on to the scene in 2014. He's 25 now and very much the best player for Team Melli.
Touted as the 'Iranian Messi' by the British media, Azmoun joined Zenit St.Petersburg in 2018 where he elevated his game further. In 45 appearances, he has struck 26 times and assisted 10 goals. He has a keen eye for goal and has gained plaudits for his creativity and aerial prowess as well.
#2 Shoya Nakajima (Japan/FC Porto) - €16 million
Japan appear to have some serious talent in their ranks as five of the ten most valuable Asian players belong to the Blue Samurais. However, Shoya Nakajima caps them all. He won the Most Valuable Player award at the 2016 AFC U-23 Championships and also participated in the 2019 Copa America.
The 25-year old winger's performances in Brazil convinced Porto to acquire his signature soon after. However, he is yet to impress as he has only scored one goal in 28 appearances so far.
#1 Son Heung-Min (South Korea/Tottenham Hotspur) - €64 million
No prizes for guessing who the most valuable Asian footballer is. Son Heung-Min has been around the block long enough for us to know he's the best player from the continent and one of the most highly-rated in the Premier League.
The Tottenham Hotspur sensation never fails to deliver and has been the lone positive for the club this season, registering nine goals and eight assists. Since arriving at North London in 2015, he has been directly involved in 127 goals from 220 games, and he continues to be South Korea's most important player too.Published 28 May 2020, 07:32 IST