Kaoru Mitoma, Brighton's Japanese winger.
Kaoru Mitoma, Brighton's Japanese winger.
in ,

Five of the best Japanese players in Premier League history

Liverpool are closing in on the signing of Wataru Endo from Stuttgart, having agreed a fee with the Bundesliga side for the Japanese midfielder.

Jurgen Klopp has turned to the Japan captain in his search for midfield reinforcements with the 30-year-old having impressed with his ball-winning capabilities in German football.

Endo is set to join an exclusive group of compatriots to have performed in the Premier League, with the midfielder in line to become just the 12th Japanese player in the division’s history.

Ahead of Endo’s move to Anfield, we’ve looked back at five of the best Japanese players in Premier League history.

Five of the best Japanese players in Premier League history:

Shinji Kagawa

Shinji Kagawa failed to live up to expectations after signing for Manchester United, but the midfielder did enough during his two seasons in English football to earn inclusion on our list.

Kagawa had been a central figure in Borussia Dortmund’s back-to-back Bundesliga titles won under Jurgen Klopp – earning consecutive inclusions in the division’s Team of the Season – before completing a £17m move to Old Trafford in 2012.

Kagawa became the first Japanese player to win the Premier League title during his debut campaign, a season which saw the midfielder score six league goals, including a uber-cool hat-trick against Norwich City to become the first Asian to score a treble in the division.

He failed to build on that encouraging campaign and fell out of favour under new manager David Moyes the following season, before returning to Dortmund in a cut-price deal in 2014.

Shinji Okazaki

Shinji Okazaki holds a special place in the affections of Leicester City supporters, with the hard-working forward having been an under-rated component of the club’s fabled title-winning side.

The Japan international signed for the Foxes from Mainz and enjoyed an unforgettable debut season, as Leicester produced one of sport’s all-time great shocks to win the Premier League under Claudio Ranieri.

Okazaki was a selfless presence in partnership with the free-scoring Jamie Vardy in attack, scoring just five league goals but winning admirers for his work-rate.

He was named as the Asian International Player of the Year for 2015/16 after Leicester’s shock success and has scored 50 goals in 119 appearances for Japan at international level.

Takumi Minamino

Takumi Minamino caught the eye of Liverpool’s recruitment team after an impressive performance against the Reds in the Champions League, with Jurgen Klopp swiftly agreeing a deal to sign the creative midfielder from Red Bull Salzburg.

Minamino was signed for a fee of just £7.25m in January 2020 as Liverpool activated his release clause and ended his first half-season with a Premier League winners’ medal at Anfield.

He struggled to establish himself as a regular in Klopp’s plans and spent time on loan with Southampton the following season, but returned to play a prominent role in Liverpool’s domestic cup double success in 2021/22.

Minamino scored 10 goals in all competitions and was the club’s leading scorer in both the FA Cup and League Cup, before departing for AS Monaco in a £15.5m deal in 2022.

Takehiro Tomiyasu

Takehiro Tomiyasu became an instant favourite at Arsenal after signing for the north Londoners from Bologna on deadline day 2021.

The right-back – who has also impressed centrally and at left-back – won plaudits for his powerful brand of defending with the Japan international shutting down several opposition wingers during an encouraging first season at the Emirates.

Injuries have since impacted his ability to nail down a regular role in the side, but the 24-year-old has the time and potential to become a prominent figure under Mikel Arteta. His adaptability and determined style of defending could be crucial as the Gunners look to challenge for major trophies.

Kaoru Mitoma

Kaoru Mitoma has been a revelation since breaking into the Brighton first team, emerging as one of the great bargains of recent campaigns.

Mitoma signed for Brighton in a £2.5m deal from Japanese side Kawasaki Frontale, before spending time on loan in Belgium with Union Saint-Gilloise as he awaited a work permit.

Mitoma was given his chance in the team during the 2022/23 campaign and excelled for the Seagulls, starring as Brighton secured a top-six finish and Europa League qualification.

An excitement machine with his fearless manner of dribbling, the 25-year-old has turned the heads of wealthier clubs, each confused as to how Brighton continue to unearth talents at cut-price fees. Should he continue on his current trajectory, expect Mitoma to be the latest name to rake in a massive profit for the South Coast side.

Read – Midfield Magicians: Deco, a masterful playmaker too easily forgotten

Read Also – Can Sean Dyche help Everton stay up?

Subscribe to our social channels:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments