Japanese Premier League Stars: The Best Of The Best

Japanese Premier League Stars: The Best Of The Best

The English Premier League attracts a vast array of diverse and special footballing talents from across the globe. While most come from established European, South American and African footballing centres, Asian players, including those from Japan, have also left their mark on the league.

In this article, we’ll count down five such Japanese footballers, each of whom has left an impression on the English Premier League.

5. Hidetoshi Nakata (Bolton Wanderers, 2005-2006)

Nakata was a legend in Italy, making 182 Serie A appearances and scoring 24 goals for five different Italian clubs. In the Japanese midfielder’s final season before retirement, he graced the Premier League.

Hidetoshi Nakata joined Bolton Wanderers on loan, displaying his elegance on the ball and leadership qualities for 21 games in Bolton colours. His technical excellence helped the club to an eighth-position finish under Sam Allardyce. Nakata accumulated 77 caps for Japan over his distinguished career.

Related: Rooney Sacked As Manager Of Birmingham After Just Two Wins In 15 Matches

4. Takehiro Tomiyasu (Arsenal, 2021- )

Another Japanese player currently plying his trade in the Premier League is Arsenal’s Tomiyasu. Signed from Serie A’s Bologna, the tall centre-back played over 20 league games in each of his first two seasons at the Emirates. With 70 club games already under his belt to add to his 36 international caps, Tomiyasu is invaluable to The Gunners’ defensive line.

With the EPL log leaders heading into December EPL matches against attacking sides like Aston Villa, Brighton and Liverpool, betting sites available for Japanese players will offer individual markets that provide odds on the big defender’s capabilities and more. With Arsenal currently second-favourites for the Premier League title at 5/1, Takehiro Tomiyasu will likely offer some fair player odds.

3. Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United, 2012-2014)

A versatile attacking midfielder, Kagawa was the first Japanese player to represent Manchester United. His quick feet, vision, and goal-scoring ability were assets to a Man United side at the height of its powers under Sir Alex Ferguson.

Shinji Kagawa was the first Asian player to score a Premier League hat-trick, also winning two EPL titles with The Red Devils. The midfielder with 97 Japanese caps represented Man United in 38 league games altogether, before returning to Borussia Dortmund, the team he had left to come to Manchester.

2. Maya Yoshida (Southampton, 2012-2020)

Yoshida may not be the most talented Japanese player to ply his trade in the English Premier League, but he played the most EPL games. A Southampton stalwart, the 1.89 m tall defender showcased his prowess and leadership qualities over eight seasons in the heart of The Saints defence.

Maya Yoshida’s commitment over his 154-game EPL career earned him the Southampton captain’s armband during his tenure, during which he earned the majority of his 126 Japanese international caps.

1. Shinji Okazaki (Leicester City, 2015-2018)

The Japanese striker was pivotal in Leicester’s fairytale 2015/16 season. Okazaki played 36 games in his debut season as second striker to a flying Jamie Vardy. He added five league goals as Leicester City won the EPL title under Claudio Ranieri.

Shinji Okazaki stayed at Leicester for three more seasons, adding another nine goals in 78 appearances. Now 37, Okazaki turns out for Sint-Truiden in the Belgian Pro League. He’s amassed an incredible 119 international caps for the Samurai Blue.

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