Velappan: Asians can excel in Europe

Park Ji-Sung was a trailblazer for Asians in Europe, making more than 200 appearances for Manchester United during seven seasons with the club from 2005 and 2012. The South Korean was not only a success in England though, also putting in some stellar performance in the Champions League.

However, while their are more than 70 Asian players turning out in leagues across Europe, only four – Son Heung-Min, Atsuto Uchida, Shinji Kagawa and Yochiro Kakitani – participated in the Champions League this season.

Velappan feels that many of Asia's top players chose to play in leagues closer to home as they prefer a familiar culture, rather than because they are unable to make the grade.

"After Park Ji-Sung I am disappointed that we have not seen many more Asians at the top of European football," he told "A few went and came back, and there are plenty more who are good enough to play in Europe’s top leagues, but Asian players by nature are very home-loving.

"They earn good salaries in the professional leagues here, [abroad] there are language problems, and the culture is completely different."

Of the South Korea squad that finished as runners-up in this year's AFC Asian Cup, only six were based in Europe, while there were nine European-based players in the Japan squad that turned out in Australia. China's contingent at the tournament did not include a single player who is based outside of China.

However, Velappan believes it is only a matter of time before more Asian players head to Europe, particularly as a number of European clubs are starting to invest heavily in Asia by setting up academies.

"South Americans and Africans are more adventurous, but I’m sure we will see more Asians moving in future," he said. 

"China is beginning to produce players, the top European clubs are setting up academies in India and China, and Indonesia might be one to watch in future. Their league structure is not great but their players are technically very sound, a bit like South Americans."