10 Asian Stars Hoping to Earn a Move at World Cup 2014
Never buy a player based on their showing at an international tournament; or so the mantra goes. Yet, time after time, such platforms have proved highly effective ways of players earning a step up the ladder at club level.
The 2014 World Cup in Brazil will be no different and, indeed, agents will already be plotting their strategy should their client make a splash on football’s biggest stage.
The World Cup is primarily about earning glory for one’s country but for many individual players it is the best possible opportunity they will have to impress a wide audience.
Looking at the competition’s Asian representatives in particular, then, which players will be hoping that 2014 is the year they make their name and earn their dream move?
Kim Young-Gwon (South Korea)
The best defender in Asia over the course of 2013 in the eyes of many observers, Kim is the central figure of Marcello Lippi’s defence at Guangzhou Evergrande and the Italian knows a thing or two about defenders.
What sets Kim apart from the majority of centre-backs is his proficiency on the ball. Having represented his country at futsal during his university days, his technical ability is unquestionable and he is a useful primary distributor for Hong Myung-Bo’s side also.
Despite his slight frame, Kim is also impressive in the air and made several key last-ditch interventions as his side won the AFC Champions League last year. Set to be an important player for Korea, it is time for him to take his talents to a bigger stage.
Yoichiro Kakitani (Japan)
The latest talent off the Cerezo Osaka production line that has given the world Shinji Kagawa and Hiroshi Kiyotaki in recent years, Kakitani surprised many by signing a contract extension in January.
The likelihood is, though, that the extension was merely a way of guaranteeing Cerezo a good fee when he does depart and, having already been linked with Arsenal and Galatasaray by the Express' Ben Jefferson, that move should come this summer.
Primarily a skilled attacking midfielder or second striker, adept at quick, flowing interchanges, Kakitani will likely start up-front for Japan where his finishing ability will have a chance to come to the fore.
Mark Milligan (Australia)
Melbourne Victory’s energetic captain, Milligan was the subject of bids from Crystal Palace last summer and will hope to encourage renewed European interest this summer.
Milligan is a good all-round player who will partner Palace’s Mile Jedinak in midfield for the Socceroos, taking on a box-to-box role in Ange Postecoglou’s side.
Australia face a difficult challenge to get anything from their upcoming campaign, but it is the likes of Milligan and Jedinak who perhaps have the best opportunity to impress. Do so and fresh offers will surely arrive.
Kim Shin-Wook (South Korea)
Tall, powerful target men may not automatically be seen as Asian football’s speciality, but Ulsan Hyundai striker Kim looks to have real potential as a No. 9.
He is ready to move on from Korean football and, according to a recent conversation with Goal.com’s Korean editor Lee Yong-Hyun, has rejected moves to Eastern Europe in the hope of something more prestigious coming along.
Hong Myung-Bo had been keen to include Park Chu-Young due to a lack of quality Korean striker’s, but the much improved international displays of 26-year-old Kim have given him a more than useful option.
Hiroshi Kiyotake (Japan)
An important figure for Bundesliga side FC Nurnberg, the World Cup in Brazil could be the opportunity needed for Kiyotake to prove that he is ready for another step up in his promising career.
Kiyotake was the subject of transfer bids from Premier League side Aston Villa last summer, per the Daily Mail's David Kent, and, following another strong season, he will be aware that his stock remains high.
The Japanese starting lineup looks to be beyond his reach, with Shinji Kagawa, Shinji Okazaki and Keisuke Honda likely to occupy the three roles behind Kakitani. He will, then, need to make his desired impact in the role of first reserve.
At a World Cup, though, opportunities have a habit of arising from seemingly nowhere.
Ryan McGowan (Australia)
Former Hearts defender McGowan’s participation at the World Cup is not yet guaranteed and his case is not being helped at club level, where Shandong Luneng coach Cuca has been reluctant to include the Australian.
It is all a far cry from 2013 when McGowan, under a different manager, was one of the standout performers of the Chinese Super League season and was on the verge of the Socceroos starting lineup.
A move this summer looks the best option for the player regardless of his international selection but a good World Cup can only help his cause.
Ehsan Hajsafi (Iran)
Iranian left-back Hajsafi has amassed over 50 caps at the tender age of 24 and will be expected to play an important role for Carlos Quieroz's side if they are to garner anything from their participation.
Hajsafi was named as one of the most promising youngsters in Asia all the way back in 2009 by Goal.com's John Duerden, having broken into the national team while still in his teenage years.
Not many Iranian's earn the chance to play abroad, but there have been successes such as Ali Karimi. With plenty of money in the Middle Eastern leagues also, it is a good opportunity for Hajsafi to make a wider reputation for himself.
Lee Chung-Yong (South Korea)
One of a few in the Korean squad who may feel they could be doing better for themselves at club level, Lee is currently playing in the Championship with Bolton, having been relegated with the club in 2012.
The right winger’s first two seasons at the Reebok Stadium were a big success, before a broken leg kept him out for most of the campaign in which they descended to the second tier.
Since then, Lee has been linked with a move to Hull City, per the Mirror's Alan Nixon, and has shown himself to be fully capable of influencing games at a high-level. Just 25, a return to a top-flight league could await if he can put in a good World Cup showing.
Tom Rogic (Australia)
A naturally creative attacking midfielder, Rogic is seen by many in Australia as the leading light of their younger generation, but he is currently on loan with Melbourne Victory after failing to make an impact at Celtic.
While there are those who lay the blame on coach Neil Lennon's shoulders, it is clear that Rogic still has much to prove and the World Cup would be a great way to set about putting right any wrongs.
Rogic has been suffering with a groin injury that may see him now rested until the World Cup when it will be up to him to justify the billing he receives in his homeland.
Karim Ansarifard (Iran)
Another Iranian with a relatively large number of caps at the age of 24, Ansarifard has been on the radar of European clubs for some time after several seasons of goalscoring excellence in Iranian domestic football.
Back in 2011, Bleacher Report's Yoosof Farah picked Ansarifard as one to watch and, sure enough, he has since been linked to Celtic, Everton, Steaua Bucharest and Borussia Dortmund, per the Express' Blair Esson.
Convincing clubs to part with money based on performances in Iranian football, though, is not easy. A strong World Cup showing, though, and he could find that past rumours quickly become reality.