The Asian following of the league is getting stronger and it has been duly noted by the authorities of La Liga, who through the Indonesia delegate of the La Liga global network, Rodrigo Gallego, promised to adjust the view times of La Liga matches for the Asian community, who used to have to wake up before or at dawn to watch their favourite clubs play via the bookie-codes.com portal.
Although there has been little representation from the region in the league, the ones on display this season are worth the mention. Here’s an overview of the Asians playing in the league this season.
The 18-year old from South Korea joined Valencia’s academy in July 2011 at the age of 11, and played in their youth setups for seven years. His first-team debut came on 30 October 2018, in a 2-1 win over CD Ebro in the Copa del Rey, becoming the youngest Korean footballer to debut professionally in Europe. His La Liga debut came some months later, on 12 January 2019 where he came on as a substitute for Denis Cheryshev in the 86th minute in a 1–1 draw with Real Valladolid. Lee’s cameo in that match also made him the youngest ever non-Spanish and the first Asian league debutant for Valencia, and he was also the fifth Korean to play in La Liga.
He was still a part of the youth setups despite all these accolades and training with the first team, but he was officially confirmed as a member of the Valencia first-team on 30 January 2019. He was given jersey number 16. He has a contract running till 2022 and has an €80m release clause to ward off suitors.
Lee is an attacking midfielder whose speed has also seen him play on the right and left-wing of the attack. He has very good close control and is also a very good dribbler. He also won the golden boot at the under-20 World Cup tournament.
— FIFA.com (@FIFAcom) June 15, 2019
Wu Lei has successfully turned around the fortunes of Espanyol in his home country of China, as 89% of Chinese football fans have pledged their allegiances to the Catalan club since his arrival in Spain in January 2019 for €2m.
He made his debut a month later in a 2–2 draw against Villarreal, coming on as a substitute and becoming the second Chinese footballer to play in La Liga after Zhang Chengdong. His first goal for the club came in a 3–1 win against Real Valladolid in March, becoming the first Chinese footballer to score in La Liga. He sealed his place in the hearts of Espanyol fans on 18 May 2019, as he scored his third goal for the club in a 2–0 win against Real Sociedad which earned them a spot in the 2019–20 UEFA Europa League qualifying stages, and he will be the first Chinese player to play for a La Liga side in European competitions when the group stages begin on 19 September.
Wu Lei is a quick striker with great finishing, positioning and high-pressing abilities. His strength too is impressive as he can hold up play very well. However, he has a poor first touch and the ball gets away from him often. Whenever he’s on the ball though, he is a big threat.
The former La Masia prodigy has had an interesting career up until now. After being invited in August 2011 to join La Masia following impressive showings in Barcelona’s Asia football camps and competitions, he was forced to return to Japan in 2015 after the Catalan club was found to have violated FIFA’s international transfer policy for under-18 youths.
He went on to break records in the J-League (Japanese top tier) becoming the youngest goalscorer in the league’s history at 15 years old. Barcelona’s Clasico rivals got to him before they did and in June 2019, Kubo signed with Real Madrid on a five-year deal who then sent him on loan to RCD Mallorca with the view of getting him some minutes to prepare him for more a prominent La Liga role, after he impressed in pre-season.
Kubo is a prodigious attacking midfielder who can also play on either the right or left side of attack, with amazing close control and playmaking capabilities way beyond his age.
Of the four currently active Asian players, Inui has the most La Liga experience, having played in Real Betis (whom he later signed for but left in 2019) and Alaves in two separate loan spells after signing for Eibar in August 2015.
Inui had a dream debut for Eibar on 23 September 2015, starting and providing one assist in a 2-2 draw against Levante. His first goal for the club came in January 2016 in a 2-1 win against Espanyol, where he scored the first goal and provided the assist for the second goal.
Like the others before him (except Wu Lei), Inui is an attacking midfielder who can also play on both sides of the attack. His most dangerous weapon is his powerful shot which he is not afraid to unleash once he gets a sight of the goal. He likes to play through balls and is also effective when his team is pressing the opponent for the ball.
With the growing popularity of the league in Asia as well as the forays of the league’s bigger clubs into popular Asian leagues, we are sure to witness many more talents, the likes of Shinji Kagawa, Heung Min-Son and Park Ji-Sung very soon in La Liga.