Asia 50, 2017: The Asian footballers that failed their European exams
Name: Ryo Miyaichi
Perhaps it is a little harsh to place Ryo Miyaichi on this list, given he is still playing in Europe, albeit in the lower divisions in Germany with St Pauli.
But considering how injury-plagued his career has been so far, it would be a miracle if Miyaichi continues to ply his trade in this region this time next year.
Miyaichi was only a high school graduate when Arsene Wenger came calling, but the Arsenal manager believed he had a precocious talent on his hands after handing the Japanese a trial in 2010.
Due to his work permit status, Miyaichi was loaned out to Dutch club Feyenoord immediately. Despite being in his first professional season, the winger looked fairly comfortable and earned the man of the match award on debut. He continued to impress and after grabbing a couple of goals and assists, was soon nicknamed ‘Ryodinho’ by the media.
Recognised as an exceptional talent, Miyaichi was granted a work permit and returned to Arsenal for the 2010/11 season. After making two appearances in the League Cup, the Japanese was farmed out to Bolton, where he continued to captivate the fans with his speed and trickery.
The winger found himself on loan yet again for the 2012/13 season, but an ankle ligament injury restricted him to just seven games all season for Wigan Athletic. That was when it all went downhill for Miyaichi.
The 2013/14 season represented another chance for Miyaichi to demonstrate his true worth, but he failed to convince while on loan at Twente and was unceremoniously demoted to the reserve team. Upon his return to Arsenal at the end of the season, his contract was terminated.
Setting his sights lower, Miyaichi opted to play in the lower echelons of Germany with FC St Pauli but he barely played in 2015, after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament. He finally returned towards the end of the season and scored a brace in St Pauli’s final match.
Alas, Miyaichi has continually been blighted by minor injuries and he only recorded 16 appearances in his second season, with no goals.
Turning 25 at the end of this year, Miyaichi still has some time to show he can play in a major European league. But he should use the last of his three-year contract with St Pauli wisely and hope to steer clear of any injuries, should he wish to finally deliver on his potential.
Name: Ahn Jung-Hwan
Nationality: South Korean
Remember when South Korea stunned the world to reach the semi-finals of the 2002 World Cup?
That was largely thanks to ‘Lord of the Ring’ Ahn Jung-Hwan, the first ever South Korean to play in Italy’s Serie A and also the South Korean hero who scored a golden goal in the quarter-finals against Italy.
Earning that nickname for kissing his wedding ring after scoring goals, Ahn began his professional career in 1998 with Busan IPark, before catching the attention of Serie A club Perugia, moving to Italy on a loan deal in 2000.
Yet Ahn’s time in Italy was anything but fruitful, he later revealed. He was ostracised by his teammates and subjected to racist remarks, hardly helping him settle down as he only managed five goals in 29 games.
ASIA 50, 2017
It was perhaps no surprise then that Ahn’s stint in Italy ended in misery, as Perugia owner Luciano Gaucci allegedly wanted to terminate his contract because the striker played a huge role in knocking Italy out of the World Cup.
Gaucci later retracted his statement and tried to sign Ahn permanently but the South Korean rejected the offer and instead searched for another club in Europe.
He was ultimately unsuccessful and his first European stint came to an end as he next went to Japan and played for Shimizu S-Pulse. Despite his spell in Japan being plagued by injury, Ahn still managed to score 30 goals in 72 appearances.
Unsurprisingly, offers from Europe came in and Ahn was soon on his way to France where he turned out for FC Metz. However, his stay there only lasted six months.
Ahn next signed for MSV Duisburg on a 17-month contract but after the club’s relegation from the Bundesliga, both parties decided to mutually terminate the deal.
That would spell the end of Ahn’s European aspirations, as he returned to the K.League for two seasons and spent another three in the Chinese Super League with Dalian Shide from 2009 to 2011.
The striker eventually hung up his boots in 2012 and has since been carving a career out in the media industry in South Korea.