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Asia's Greatest Eredivisie Players

Kuala Lumpur: The birthplace of total football, and the country that launched the careers of some of the game’s most influential figures, the Netherlands is a country with a proud footballing tradition.

But while a long list of Dutch stars have become household names, the country also has a history of welcoming some of Asia’s outstanding players.

From 1980s pioneers like Huh Jung-moo and Fandi Ahmad to the stars of the modern game, the Eredivisie has played host to some of the continent’s best and brightest, making it a league of interest for generations of Asian fans.

Our list features several title winners and a league top goal scorer, but which of these icons deserves the title of Asia’s best?

Here are our nominees:

See also :

Huh Jung-moo (Korea Republic)
Club: PSV Eindhoven
Games: 77
Goals: 11

Shortly after Cha Bum-kun began his pioneering career in Germany’s Bundesliga, his international teammate Huh Jung-moo played a similarly ground-breaking role for Korean players in Dutch football.

An Asian Games gold medallist in 1978, Huh spent three years with a strong PSV Eindhoven side as a defensive midfielder, experiencing UEFA Cup football, as well as memorable clashes with Johan Cruyff.

Huh returned to his homeland after four seasons in Eindhoven, going on to achieve fame as a coach in multiple stints in charge of the Korea Republic national team, guiding them to the knockout stage of the FIFA World Cup South Africa 2010.

Shinji Ono (Japan)
Club: Feyenoord
Games: 112
Goals: 19
Honours: UEFA Cup (2001-02), AFC Player of the Year (2002)

A gifted midfielder, and the first Japanese player to win a European trophy, it’s difficult to imagine Shinji Ono was only 21 when he joined Bert van Marwijk’s Feyenoord at the beginning of the 2001-02 season.

Far from merely participating in Feyenoord’s UEFA Cup triumph that season, he played a key role, scoring crucial goals against Freiburg and Rangers, netting a penalty in the quarter-final shootout against PSV Eindhoven and playing 85 minutes in the euphoric home final against Borussia Dortmund.

Those performances helped Ono become AFC Player of the Year in 2002, and he finished with a final tally of 19 league goals and 23 assists in a spell which lives long in the memory of fans in Rotterdam and beyond.

Alireza Jahanbakhsh (IR Iran)
Clubs: NEC, AZ
Games: 112
Goals: 39
Honours: Eredivisie top scorer (2017-18)

Many Asian players have made an impact in European leagues, but Iranian winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh is one of a very select group to have finished a season as the top goal scorer in a top-flight competition.

A stellar return of 21 goals in 33 matches in the 2017-18 season included two hat-tricks, and was complemented by 12 assists, but Jahanbakhsh’s brilliant final campaign in the Eredivisie was the culmination of five years of groundwork.

A shining light at NEC Nijmegen, and the club’s Player of the Season in their 2014-15 promotion campaign, he went on to star for AZ, finishing with 39 goals and 31 assists in just over 100 Eredivisie appearances.

Jason Culina (Australia)
Clubs: Ajax, De Graafschap, FC Twente, PSV Eindhoven
Games: 163
Goals: 16
Honours: 4x Eredivisie winner, 2x Johan Cruyff Shield winner, KNVB Cup (2001-02)

After arriving at Ajax as a teenager, Culina made a handful of appearances in the side which won the 2003-04 title, but it was an 11-goal 2004-05 campaign with FC Twente which made the Australian hot property and paved the way for a move to Guus Hiddink’s PSV.

It was there, featuring in a deeper midfield role, that Culina played his part in three consecutive league titles, playing over 130 times in all competitions during an excellent four-year spell in Eindhoven.

By the time he returned to Australia in 2009, Culina had seven trophies to show for a Dutch odyssey which lasted nearly a decade and made him one of his country’s top midfield options.

Fandi Ahmad (Singapore)
Club: Groningen
Games: 36
Goals: 11

Fandi Ahmad’s career in Dutch football wasn’t as long as the other players in our list, but his achievements as the first Singaporean player in a major European league are remembered to this day.

Despite the unprecedented nature of his time for FC Groningen, Fandi thrived. As a 21-year-oid, he scored twice on his league debut, then found the net against Inter Milan in a UEFA Cup match three days later.

A total 36 games, 11 goals and two years later, the forward returned to play out an excellent career in Southeast Asia, finishing with 55 goals for the Singaporean national team and icon status in his country.

Park Ji-sung (Korea Republic)
2002-2005, 2013-2014
Club: PSV Eindhoven
Games: 65
Goals: 13
Honours: 2x Eredivisie winner, KNVB Cup (2004-05), Johan Cruyff Shield (2003)

Voted Asia’s second greatest Premier League player in our poll two weeks ago, Park’s European journey began, and ended, in the Netherlands, where he enjoyed great success with PSV Eindhoven.

Signed by former national team boss Guus Hiddink shortly after Korea Republic’s history-making run at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Park overcame early injuries to star at Philips Stadion, winning two league titles in three seasons and scoring against AC Milan in the 2004-05 UEFA Champions League semi-final.

After eight excellent years in England, Park returned to PSV in the 2013-14 season, memorably playing a part in three goals in the space of seven minutes in a 4-0 win over Ajax before retiring at the end of the season.

Reza Ghoochannejhad (IR Iran)
2005-2009, 2016-2018, 2019-current
Clubs: Heerenveen, PEC Zwolle
Games: 82
Goals: 34
Honours: Eredivisie Team of the Season 2016-17

Born in Mashad and spending the majority of his childhood in the Netherlands, Iranian striker Reza Ghoochannejhad spent four seasons plying his trade in the second tier Eerste Divisie in his early twenties, but it is his more recent exploits which have earned a place on our shortlist.

After stints in Belgium, England, Qatar and Kuwait, an outstanding 2016-17 season saw the Team Melli forward finish second in the Eredivisie scorers' race, netting a history-making hat-trick against PSV Eindhoven in the process.

Eight more goals the following season preceded moves to Cyprus and Australia, with the man known as ‘Gucci’ returning to Dutch football with PEC Zwolle at the beginning of the 2019-20 season.

Brett Holman (Australia)
Clubs: Excelsior, NEC, AZ
Games: 214
Goals: 39
Honours: Eredivisie (2008-09), Johan Cruyff Shield (2009)

Holman never played a league match for the high-flying Feyenoord side which originally brought him to the Netherlands, but he carved out an outstanding career, culminating in a league title with Louis van Gaal’s AZ.

After four seasons on loan to Feyenoord feeder club Excelsior, the attacking midfielder enjoyed two impressive seasons with NEC Nijmegen before joining a strong AZ side in the summer of 2008.

A superb run to the title followed in his first season in Alkmaar, and by the time he moved to Aston Villa in 2012 Holman had accrued more Eredivisie appearances than any other Australian player.

Lee Young-pyo (Korea Republic)
Club: PSV Eindhoven
Games: 81
Goals: 1
Honours: 2x Eredivisie winner, KNVB Cup (2004-05), Johan Cruyff Shield (2003)

Joining alongside Park following the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Lee Young-pyo was a key contributor to an outstanding PSV side, winning League, Cup and Super Cup titles, all within three seasons.

A complete left-back, he became an indispensable ingredient for PSV, particularly in the 2004-05 campaign, where he featured 45 times in all competitions for a team which won the domestic double and reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League.

After his terrific three-year stint in Eindhoven came to end at the start of the 2005-06 season, Lee went on to play for Tottenham Hotspur, Borussia Dortmund and Al Hilal before wrapping up an excellent career in Canada with Vancouver Whitecaps.

Who is your favourite Asian player in the Eredivise? Vote below (Poll ends at 16:00 UTC +8 on June 11).

Photos: AFP, AFC

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