Football

Asian influence grows in Premier League

Kagawa could be the next big thing. (©GettyImages)
Kagawa could be the next big thing. (©GettyImages).

Ji-sung Park is widely regarded as the pioneer of football in the Far East, particularly when it comes to the ever-increasing presence and popularity of Asian players currently plying their trade in the Premier League.

When the former South Korean captain signed for Manchester United from PSV Eindhoven in 2005, few would have predicted the seven-year success story he would go on to enjoy at Old Trafford.

Park became the first Asian footballer to win a Premier League title, and also the first to play in a UEFA Champions League final. Now 31, and entering the twilight of his career, the industrious midfielder put pen to paper on a two-year deal with Queens Park Rangers - a transfer that will benefit the Loftus Road outfit both on and off the pitch.

Bankrolled by Asian billionaire Tony Fernandes, QPR's attempt to reach out to the Far East is a business strategy that is becoming increasingly commonplace amongst many of England's elite clubs in the Premier League, so lucrative has the continent's market proven to be.

The potential to earn millions of pounds in revenue, from both shirt sales and merchandise is enticing, but even more so, the prospect of turning a relatively insular club into a global brand.

Manchester United have realised the value in establishing themselves in that part of the world, and before the sale of Park to QPR, had already secured the signature of Asia's latest leading star to make waves in Europe, with the capture of 23-year-old attacking midfielder Kagawa Shinji.

So rapid has the former Borussia Dortmund playmaker's rise to stardom been, that there is already a considerable buzz surrounding his arrival in Sir Alex Ferguson's star-studded squad ahead of the new season. If the media hype is to be believed, Shinji could usurp Park as the greatest Asian import ever to grace the Premier League.

Such fairytale stories of individual prosperity and collective profit off the back of such unknown entities from the Far East have not always proceeded, though.

Chu-Young Park, who, like Ji-sung Park left the Eredivisie to sign for Arsenal in the summer of 2011 has managed just a handful of first-team appearances in Arsene Wenger's first-team, after struggling to adapt to the physical demands of the English game. His presence has hardly been felt, on or off the pitch.

On a more positive note, the Gunners do also possess talented teenager Ryo Miyaichi, who impressed in a brief stint on loan at Bolton Wanderers last season, and could feature more prominently at the Emirates Stadium in 2012-13.

In the past we saw Chinese midfield duo Jihai Sun and Li Tie enjoy understated spells in the Premier League, the former spending six seasons at Manchester City, while the other had three years on Merseyside with Everton.

Park was the first to really buck the trend for the Far Eastern market. His overwhelming trophy haul of four Premier League titles, one Champions League medal, three League Cups and a Club World Cup is a remarkable achievement that will be difficult to replicate, but is sure to inspire the present and future generations of Asian players looking to make it big in England.

Topics:
Arsenal
Football
Premier League
Manchester United
Queens Park Rangers

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