Football is not as popular in Asia as it is in other places, but nobody can doubt it keeps growing in the continent. Perhaps it’s because the money some teams and leagues have spent in the last couple of seasons, but there is no denying that they are taking the right steps to make some noise in the football world in the future.
Not only they have the big budgets that attract talented veterans to go play in Asia, but they have been developing players who are set to take the spotlight when they make the big jump to Europe. Right now they count with some talented players in the old continent like Heu Ming-Son and Shinji Kagawa, but there is a whole generation behind these two that will take Asian football to the next level.
We already saw what other continents had to offer, but now it’s the turn to discover the best young talent you can find in the eastern continent. Here are the 10 best youngsters in Asia.
Honorable Mention: Egy Maulana Vikri
10. Takehiro Tomiyasu
If we talk about youngsters, there is a team that has a bright future ahead with its young pieces, Japan. This country counts with plenty of talents in its academies, and here we have an example, Takehiro Tomiyasu, a powerful defender who is expected to do big things both with his country and overseas.
He has the right profile to be a great center-back, with 1.90 meters of height and the capacity to defend any striker he has in front; Tomiyasu has a great future ahead of him. Right now he plays for Belgian side Sint-Truiden but has been linked to a move to Serie A team Bologna this summer. At only 20, this guy will do great things if his development continues the proper way.
9. Daichi Kamada
Albeit this Japanese striker isn’t as famous as others on this list, he has made sure to be considered a great promise for his country and football in general. He currently plays in the Belgian first division with Sint-Truiden, where he shares touches with our prior pick, Takehiro Tomiyasu.
His parent club is Eintracht Frankfurt, one that can give him a big exposure like they did with Luka Jovic last season. Of course, Kamada and the Serbian striker are not the same, but having a team that serves the chances to you like Frankfurt do will be a great advantage for this striker. Last season with Sint-Truidense, he scored 15 goals in 34 matches.
8. Ritsu Doan
Ritsu Doan alongside Takefusa Kubo is considered the biggest promise of Japanese football, expected to create a huge association with the former Tokyo FC player. Doan plays as an attacking midfielder and is one of the most unbalancing players in the continent right now, with a huge potential that will make him one of the best.
He currently plays for Eredivisie side Groningen, but several reports suggest his days with the Green-White Army are coming to their ends, as Doan is followed by bigger clubs, including the current Premier League champions Manchester City, following his good performances with his club and country last campaign.
7. Han Kwang-Song
Albeit this kid had a terrific season two years ago, his level has decreased a little, but he’s still young and have room to explode his talent. This North Korean forward carries a huge responsibility on his shoulders, as he’s the future biggest star of football in his country.
Right now he plays in Italian Serie B with Perugia, on loan from Cagliari, but if he’s able to recover his old level, Han’s future will be in a bigger club. He’s already a referent in his national side, with clubs like the current Champions League winner Liverpool being linked to a move for him, as well as Juventus.
6. Lee Seung-woo
This guy right here could have a better start of career, as he was part of Barcelona’s academy called ‘La Masia’, but the Blaugrana didn’t completely trust his capacity and he had to leave the club, taking his talents to Italy, where he plays right now with Serie B side Hellas Verona.
Lee Seung-woo has been accused of having a big ego that doesn’t let him develop his game to the fullest, but you can’t deny that he’s very talented and has a good background, so he must know one thing or two. In the past, he was rumored to be on the radar of teams like Atalanta or Milan, and after seeing how good he played in the Asian games and the U20 World Cup with his national side, maybe we’ll see him wearing a different shirt next season.
5. Turki Al-Ammar
This Saudi player is already making some noise in Asia following his good performances with his current club, Al-Shabab and his national side. Al-Ammar took his country to win the last edition of the AFC U19 Championship, gaining the attention of everybody across the continent, becoming one of the most promising players in Asia.
To put things into perspective, Turki was voted the Saudi Pro League Young Player of the Season earlier in 2018, won the AFC U-19 Championship Indonesia 2018 Most Valuable Player after his four goals and great performances, but, that was only the beginning for him, as he was awarde the AFC Youth Player of the Year at the AFC Annual Awards. If he manages his career well, Al-Ammar will have a great career.
4. Jeong Woo-yeong
You have to be special to draw the attention of one of the biggest clubs in the world and sign with them when you’re only 18 years old. That is exactly what German giants Bayern Munich did with Jeong Woo-yeong, another South Korean player expected to rule Asian football in the future.
This forward has been good for Bayern Munich II, scoring 13 goals in 31 matches ever since he signed with the Bavarians’ second team back in 2017. He recently joined Freiburg on loan, but there is no doubt that he will have chances with Bayern’s first team if he keeps playing the way he’s done so far.
3. Tatsuya Ito
Here we go with the heavyweights. Now is the turn to talk about Tatsuya Ito, a player who doesn’t play for a club with a great present, but still manages to enchant everybody on a weekly basis. Ito plays for 2. Bundesliga team Hamburger SV, but seeing how good he plays and how bad his team does, is only a matter of time before we see him taking his talents to a better club.
Ito is a very unbalancing player who can drive crazy any defense he faces; unfortunately, he plays with a team with not so much success in recent years, but that shouldn’t be a problem for him, and we could see him following Jann-Fiete Arp’s footsteps and leaving the team somewhere this summer. One of the most talented Japanese players in actuality.
2. Takefusa Kubo
Here we are in front of the guy who is considered the biggest promise of Japanese football. Takefusa Kubo can brag on how he decided to leave Barcelona to take his talents back to Japan, where he continued his development and then made his way back to Spain to sign with Barca’s archrival, Real Madrid; that’s how good this kid is.
He played the Copa America with his national side but they were unable to have good collective participation as the Japanese got relegated in the group stage of the tournament. However, he was able to showcase his talents and delight propers and strangers with his style of play. This kid is only 18 and the future couldn’t be look for him; he’s already showing how great he can be and we can’t wait to see him when he reaches his peak.
1. Lee Kang-in
It doesn’t get any better than this. Although Takefusa Kubo will join Real Madrid Castilla this summer, South Korean midfielder Lee Kang-in is expected to increase his caps with his side, Valencia after the good things he showed last season. He started the campaign with Valencia B, where he scored 4 goals in 26 matches, which earned him a call to the first team, where he played 3 more matches.
Now Lee will arrive with more experience; he just finished his participation in the FIFA U20 World Cup with his national side, finishing the tournament as runners-up after losing the finals against Ukraine. However, Lee displayed great things throughout the tournament and won the Golden Ball award of the competition.
Valencia know they have one of the most promising youngsters in the world in this guy and it’s only a matter of time before we see him displaying all the best of his game with the Bats, or with any other team.