Asian football on the rise: three world superstars who play their football on the continent
As clubs across Asia continue to get more established, footballers from around the globe are increasingly calling the continent their new home. With that in mind, here are three world superstars who have made the switch.
Oscar (Shanghai Port)
Oscar came to prominence following a move from Brazilian side Internacional to then-European champions Chelsea back in July 2012. The midfielder spent four-and-a-half seasons at the Blues before moving to Chinese side Shanghai Port for £53.2m in 2017. During his time in England, Oscar made 203 appearances for the Blues, scoring 38 goals and providing 36 assists. He also won two Premier League titles and a Europa League trophy in the process, as well as several other club accolades.
This year, Oscar’s former side have made a slow start to 2022-23 in England’s top flight. Placing eighth at the end of the international break, Chelsea are a popular option to miss out on the Champions League places this campaign in the football betting tips, with the likes of Newcastle, Manchester United and Arsenal making strong starts. Oscar certainly didn’t flounder after his move across the globe to China, though, as he boasts an incredible 51 goals and 94 assists in 173 matches, and was crowned champion with Shanghai Port in 2017-18.
Vincent Aboubakar (Al-Nassr)
Vincent Aboubakar travelled throughout Europe before eventually signing with Al-Nassr in July 2021. The Cameroon international had spells at Lorient in France, before a move to Portuguese outfit Porto and a successive loan and free transfer to Turkish side Besiktas. Aboubakar had prolific seasons in all three countries, with personal best league tallies of between 15 and 16 goals. He has adapted to life well in Saudi Arabia too, with 10 goals across 31 matches between 2021 and 2022.
While potentially a relative unknown to the average football fan before the World Cup, Aboubakar rose to international acclaim after his performances in Qatar. Despite Cameroon’s group stage exit, the forward scored two goals and provided an assist, his most memorable coming against Brazil on matchday three before famously being sent off for his celebration. The 30-year-old is playing alongside one of the game’s all-time greats, Cristiano Ronaldo, who joined the Saudi outfit at the end of December.
Ever Banega (Al-Shabbab)
Unlike Cameroon, Ever Banega’s home nation of Argentina went all the way in Qatar. While he boasts 65 caps for his country, the 34-year-old wasn’t selected by Lionel Scaloni despite impressing since a move to Saudi side Al-Shabbab in September 2020. The Argentine has 16 goals and 17 assists in 66 appearances across all competitions, which is not a bad return for a midfielder.
While the Albiceleste’s campaign ended in triumph in Qatar, Scaloni’s side started with a shocking 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia. Banega himself was subject to taunts by his Al-Shabbab teammates in footage that circulated on social media, although had the last laugh as the Saudis were eliminated at the group stage. The veteran midfielder is playing out his twilight years in Asia following an illustrious career with the likes of Boca Juniors, Valencia and Sevilla, in which he has three Europa Leagues, a Copa del Rey and a Copa Libertadores to his name.
With other stars hailing from various parts of the world not mentioned on this list, the international nature of Asia’s top leagues is proof of its development in recent years. With Oscar, Aboubakar, Banega and others as the trailblazers, it may not be long before an Asian country themselves are celebrating a World Cup win.