South Korea are one of the most successful Asian footballing nations. The best South Korean footballers have showcased their skills in some of the best leagues around, including in the Premier League. The English top-flight has a big following in Asia and many stars have flocked to England to try and capitalize on this fame. 14 Korean stars have graced the English top-flight all having debuted in the 21st century to varying degrees of success. So who have been the best South Korean footballers in the English Premier League?
5 best South Korean footballers in Premier League history
Park Ji-Sung (Manchester United, QPR)
One of the first big Asian superstars in world football, Park Ji-Sung was already considered a national hero when he joined Manchester United from PSV Eindhoven back in 2005. Joining a side with a huge fanbase in Asia, Park Ji-Sung had a guaranteed path to success provided he could make some sort of impact at Old Trafford, which he did.
His ability to play anywhere from full-back to central midfield or as a winger gave him plenty of opportunities to shine under Sir Alex Ferguson. He did just that scoring 19 goals in 134 appearances and winning three Player of the Month awards for the club. He was part of a squad that won four Premier League titles, the 2008 Champions League and 2008 FIFA World Club Cup, enabling him to become the most decorated Asian footballer in the sport’s history.
Lee Young-Pyo (Tottenham Hotspur)
Not letting his compatriot Park Ji-Sung get away with the headlines, Lee Young-Pyo also left PSV to join the Premier League in 2005 except he moved to London to join Spurs.
Lee Young-Pyo quickly impressed fans with his speed and technical ability making him a regular part of the setup at White Hart Lane for several seasons. His biggest highlight was undoubtedly being part of the last Tottenham side to win a trophy lifting the EFL Cup in 2008 and sealing his spot in English football folklore.
The emergence of Gareth Bale along the left-hand side forced Lee to a place on the bench before he left Spurs for Borussia Dortmund in 2008 after 3 years in England. Not as successful as Park Ji-Sung but definitely one of the best South Korean footballers in Premier League history.
Lee Chung-Yong (Bolton Wanderers, Crystal Palace)
It is surprising to think that Lee Chung-Yong spent almost a decade in English football in a career split into two halves.
His emergence with Bolton in 2009 was a surprise having joined from FC Seoul in a low-key move during that summer. He stunned fans with amazing trickery and pace that bamboozled some of the best defences in the league. His form in his debut season was outstanding and earnt him Bolton’s Player of the Year award for the 2009/10 season.
His form carried over into the following season before injuries plagued his career over the next few seasons. The recurring niggles affected Lee’s form both at Bolton and Palace before he moved to Germany’s second tier with VFL Bochum in 2018.
Ki Sung-Yeung (Swansea, Sunderland, Newcastle
With the ability to play on either flank, Ki Sung-Yeung was a tricky winger for defences to handle when he joined Swansea from Celtic in 2012. Having spent four years in Scottish football, Ki hit the ground running with The Swans and became a part of a deceptively quick and efficient midfield.
His best form came in the 2014/15 season where he scored 8 goals in 33 games becoming Swansea’s Player of the Season as well as earning two Korean Footballer of the Year Awards. He struggled to repeat this form for Newcastle in 2018 before moving to La Liga with Real Mallorca in 2019, but remains of of the best South Korean footballers to grace the Premier League.
Son Heung-Min – Tottenham
Son Heung-Min was already considered one of Europe’s most promising wingers when he joined Spurs’ from Bayer Leverkusen in 2015 but he has gone on to exceed all expectations. Son’s pace, trickery and eye for goal has terrorized teams throughout the Premier League season after season no matter where he plays.
He has scored 66 goals in 185 league appearances – 5 times more than any other Asian player in English football – and has formed an almost psychic bond with Harry Kane creating one of the deadliest strike partnerships in European football.
Son has won a plethora of awards including two Tottenham Player of the Year awards, 6x Best Asian Footballer Awards and the 2020 Asian Player of the Year Award. On top of that, his remarkable solo goal against Burnley in January 2020 also saw him capture FIFA’s Ferenc Puskas Award for Best Goal in world football in 2020. Undoubtedly the best Korean footballer of all time.
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