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Ranking the 5 greatest Asian footballers to play in the Bundesliga

Son Heung-Min of Bayer Leverkusen before the UCL clash against Manchester United
Son Heung-Min of Bayer Leverkusen before the UCL clash against Manchester United
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Gregory Airende

The Bundesliga is among the top five leagues in Europe. It is known for the finesse, brilliance, and devoted fans. The Bundesliga is ranked first in terms of average attendance in the world. And just like every other league, players from different heritages are allowed to represent any club of their choice.

With that being said, we shall be looking at the 5 greatest Asian footballers to have played in the Bundesliga.


#5 Yasuhiko Okudera (234 Bundesliga appearances)

Okudera during a match
Okudera during a match

Yasuhiko Okudera, the legendary player from Kazuno, Akita, Japan, is known for opening the doors for Asian footballers playing in Europe. He did so by becoming the first Japanese and Asian to play professionally in Europe.

Not only that, he is also the first Asian to score in the European Cup, which is now known as the UEFA Champions League.

Okudera's skill and mastery of the ball caught the attention of Koln's manager Hans Weisweiler on a field trip. He signed him immediately.

His four goals in 20 matches played a role in his side's league victory. He spent four seasons with the club (Koln) and later moved to Hertha BSC and then Werder Bremen. After that, he returned back to his boyhood club, Furukawa Electric in Japan.


#4 Cha Bum Kun (308 Bundesliga appearances)

Cha-Bum-Kun of Bayer Leverkusen holds the trophy up in victory after the UEFA Cup Final
Cha-Bum-Kun of Bayer Leverkusen holds the trophy up in victory after the UEFA Cup Final

Exactly a year after Okudera went to Germany, Korea's Cha Bum-Kun followed suit, making him the first Korean to appear in the Bundesliga.

He was nicknamed Cha Boom because of his explosive pace and powerful shots. He played a monumental role in winning the UEFA Cup — now reffered to as the Europa League – for the two teams he represented in the league.

Bum-Kun's spell at Eintracht Frankfurt was nothing short of a memorable one. He garnered 46 goals in 122 matches and was their top goalscorer for three consecutive seasons. His scintillating performance in the 1980 UEFA Cup Final saw him earn praises from Sir Alex Ferguson and Lothar Matthäus.

After spending four years at Frankfurt, he went over to Bayern Leverkusen where he had the pinnacle of his career, scoring his highest tally of 17 goals. His equalizer against Espanyol in the 1988 UEFA Cup final allowed the match to go into penalties in which his side won.


#3 Mehdi Mahdavikia (243 Bundesliga appearances)

Mahdavikia in action against Arsenal
Mahdavikia in action against Arsenal

Iranian international Mehdi Mahdavikia started his spell in Germany on loan term with Bochum in 1998. There he played just 12 games and registered three goals.The following season, he made a move to Hamburg SV where he spent eight years.

During his time there, he was named Hamburg Player of the Year twice. Nicknamed the Carpet by Hamburg fans, he was known for his versatility in playing multiple roles. Originally a right full-back, he was also able to play as a right winger or a striker.

Mahdavikia's last days in the Bundesliga were at Eintracht Frankfurt, where he was rarely used, which caused him to return to the Iran Pro League.


#2 Shinji Kagawa (148 Bundesliga appearances)

Shinji Kagawa of Dortmund
Shinji Kagawa of Dortmund

Shinji Kagawa is the second Japanese player on the list. He is known for his creativity and good passing decisions. This made him an important factor in Dortmund's back-to-back title victories in 2010-11 and 2011-12. He scored 21 goals within that period.

👕 467 Games⚽ 131 Goals🅰️ 92 Assists 🏅 1× Top Scorer🏆 1× English Champion 🏆 1× English Super Cup🏆 1× Asian Cup 🏆 1× Greek Cup🏆 2× German Champion🏆 2× German CupHappy Birthday, Shinji Kagawa! 🥳🇯🇵#ShinjiKagawa #Japan https://t.co/f2mClL6RY0

In the summer of 2012, Kagawa joined Manchester United. Although not as productive as he was in the Bundesliga — scoring six goals in 38 appearances — he made history by becoming the first Asian player to score a hat trick in the Premier League.

Kagawa returned to Dortmund two years later and it was as if he never left. He helped his team qualify for the 2016-17 Champions League tournament by finishing second in the 2015-16 season.

Also, in that same season, Kagawa earned his second-highest league goal tally (9 goals). He was a member of the DFB–Pokal winning team in 2017.

Due to some controversies, Kagawa left Dortmund for Turkish side Besiktas the following season. The Japanese currently plays for Sint-Truidense in the Belgian First Division A.


#1 Son Heung-Min (135 Bundesliga appearances)

Son reacts during the Hamburger SV v Groningen match
Son reacts during the Hamburger SV v Groningen match

The six-time recipient of the Best Footballer in Asia award, Son Heung-Min, is widely regarded as one of the best wingers in the world right now. He started his career in Europe representing Hamburg SV in the Bundesliga.

Son Heung-Min has now directly contributed to 15+ goals in 6 consecutive Premier League seasons.2021/22:⚽️ 10 goals🅰️ 5 assistsRemarkable consistency from one of the Premier League's best attackers. 🇰🇷 https://t.co/KgzNxiPisP

Son had a breakout performance in the 2012-13 season where he registered his first career double-digit goal tally - 12. The brilliant performance saw Son get snatched by Bayern Leverkusen the following season.

He became an instant asset for his club as he helped them narrowly finish ahead of Wolfsburg to qualify for the Champions League in the 4th place.

Son scored double-digit goals in the two seasons he spent at Leverkusen before signing for Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League. That's where he is currently, playing at his best.


Paul Merson has predicted the results for Chelsea vs Tottenham and other GW 2 fixtures! Click here

Edited by Akshay Saraswat
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