FOX Sports Asia football editor Gabriel Tan picks six of the biggest names in Asian football – including Southeast Asian stars Chanathip Songkrasin and Nguyen Quang Hai – that look ready for a move to Europe this summer.
With all the major European seasons now having their summer breaks, the excitement shifts off the field as the biggest clubs reinforce ahead of a new campaign, splashing the cash on some of the biggest names in world football.
However, Asia has often proven to be a great location for clubs looking for a bargain and willing to put their faith in some outstanding prospects that are brimming with potential but yet to prove themselves on the bigger stage.
This summer should prove to be no different so, before the transfer window gets into full swing, here are six Asian stars who could be ready for Europe.
TAKEFUSA KUBO (JAPAN)
Expectations are always going to be high when one’s nickname is the “Japanese Messi” but Takefusa Kubo has had no difficulties living up to the hype.
Having scored four goals in 12 starts in the J1 League so far this season, the FC Tokyo starlet was recently rewarded with his first Japan cap on Sunday and will be involved at the upcoming Copa America.
Having recently turned 18, Kubo is now eligible to be signed by foreign clubs and – having initially spent time at Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy – there have been plenty of rumours swirling around that the La Liga giants are keen on bringing him back to Spain, although Real Madrid are also reportedly now interested too.
ALIREZA BEIRANVAND (IRAN)
After his heroics at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, where he famously denied Cristiano Ronaldo from the penalty spot, Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand was tipped to make the move to Europe but opted to stay at Persepolis, where he has since helped them reach the final of the AFC Champions League and emerge champions of the most recent Persian Gulf Pro League campaign.
Now that there is little more he can achieve at Persepolis, especially with the club already eliminated from this year’s ACL, the time could be nigh for the 1.94-metre custodian to take the next challenge of his career.
Ali Daei, Mehdi Mahdavikia, Ali Karimi and Andranik Teymourian are just some of the famous Iranian names to have gone on to star in Europe, but Beiranvand has the chance to be the first in his position to really fly the flag for his country – perhaps even in Serie A where he would be reacquainted with Ronaldo.
CHANATHIP SONGKRASIN (THAILAND)
Although Chanathip Songkrasin has long been tipped to move abroad, he made the right decision to first venture to play for Consadole Sapporo in the J1 League, widely regarded as the best domestic competition in Asia.
With two years in J1 now under his belt, where he has grown in stature with each passing game, the next few months could be the right time for the Thailand playmaker to start thinking about his next step.
The Thai connection would make a move to Premier League outfit Leicester seem a dream, although Chanathip could actually prosper in a less-physical, more-technical environment such as that of La Liga.
ALMOEZ ALI (QATAR)
Having long been regarded as one of Qatar’s brightest prospects, Almoez Ali truly announced his arrival at the start of the year by playing a pivotal role in Qatar winning their maiden AFC Asian Cup crown.
The Al Duhail man picked up both the Most Valuable Player and Top Scorer awards as he hit the back of the net nine times, setting a new record for most goals in a single tournament.
AC Milan were one of the clubs that were rumoured to have sent scouts to take a closer look at the 22-year-old, who still has plenty of improvement in his game to come.
JO HYEON-WOO (KOREA REPUBLIC)
The second goalkeeper to feature in the list and one that also rose to prominence at last year’s World Cup, Jo Hyeon-woo is one of the likelier players to move to Europe this summer with an unnamed German team reportedly in talks for his services.
Following his heroics at Russia 2018, Jo continued his fine form at club level at led Daegu FC to their first-ever major silverware in the form of the Korean FA Cup, which also led to a maiden appearance in the AFC Champions League this season.
Although Daegu impressed on the continental stage, they ultimately failed to make it out of the group stage and that could just pave the way for Jo to move on after six and a half years of service.
NGUYEN QUANG HAI (VIETNAM)
Arguably the hottest property in Southeast Asian football at the moment, Nguyen Quang Hai has enjoyed a sterling past 15 months starting last January when he helped Vietnam reach the final of the AFC U-23 Championship.
Since then, he has been in inspirational form as the Golden Stars won the AFF Suzuki Cup, reached the quarter-finals of AFC Asian Cup 2019 and finished fourth at last year’s Asian Games.
Quang Hai has already garnered interest from several clubs across Asia but Hanoi FC are said to be reluctant to cash in on his services yet, although that could just prove impossible if an irresistible offer from Europe comes through.