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Indian football: Best Asian players to have played in India

9:14 AM IST 30/04/20
East Bengal CFL 2018
We take a look at top footballers from the AFC nations to have played in India...

The African nations provided India with top strikers. Spain gave us top defenders and skilful creators in midfield. Now we take a look at the best footballers from the AFC nations to have played for an Indian club.

  • Ryuji Sueoka Pune FC Salgaocar FC I-League 07042015

    #1 Ryuji Sueoka

    Another Japanese midfielder on the list, Ryuji Sueoka spent the second half of his playing career across a good number of teams in the I-League. The then 30-year-old signed for Mohun Bagan in 2009 and made an immediate impact, scoring five goals in seven games.

    He jumped ships to Salgaocar the following season and went on to become a champion with the Goan side in his first season. In 2011, he was voted the best player in the I-League by the coaches.

    Sueoka later spent a year each at Dempo, East Bengal before finishing his journey at Pune FC. With 50 goals in 87 games for Indian clubs, Sueoka was one of the best goal-scoring midfielders to play in the country.

  • Katsumi Yusa Mohun Bagan Mumbai FC I-League

    #2 Katsumi Yusa

    A fan-favourite with Mohun Bagan, Katsumi Yusa was an integral part of the side that brought back the glory days. The Japanese attacking midfielder played a key role in the Bengal giants' first title win in 13 years when they drew against Bengaluru FC to seal it on the final day in the 2014-15 season.

    Yusa was one of their most consistent players that season and the two that followed. He also captained the side that brought home the Federation Cup in the 2015-16 season.

    The 31-year-old spent a year each at NorthEast United, East Bengal and NEROCA before switching to Chennai City FC in 2019.

  • Majid Bishkar

    #3 Majid Bishkar

    One of the best foreign players in the 1980s, Iranian midfielder Majid Bishkar is a famous figure in Bengal, mostly due to his incredible stint with Mohammedan. After two years with East Bengal, the Iran international signed for Mohammedan in 1982. He played a key role in leading the side to a number of trophies in the 1980s, including their famous Federation Cup win in 1983.

    Bishkar earned the nickname 'Badshah' - an Urdu word for king - during his time at Kolkata. He could not replicate the success in other parts of India and eventually returned to Iran to finish his career. Badshah is still considered one of the best foreign footballers to have played in India.

  • Jamshid Nassiri

    #4 Jamshid Nassiri

    Majid Mishkar's partner in crime at Mohammedan, countryman Jamshid Nassiri was lethal in front of goal as evident by the 44 goals he scored in just 58 games at the club. Nassiri too landed in India at East Bengal in 1981 and moved to Mohammedan after one season at the club.

    He spent three trophy-laden years at the club before returning to the Red and Golds.

    At the end of his playing career, the Iranian became a coach in India. He managed Mumbai-based side Bengal Mumbai FC between 1998-2001 and later returned to Mohammedan in 2003. His son Kiyan Nassiri is a midfielder at Mohun Bagan.

  • Mahmoud al Amna

    #5 Mahmoud al Amna

    A protagonist of one of the biggest fairytale in Indian football history, Syrian midfielder Mahmoud Amnah was crucial in the coronation of Aizawl FC as I-League champions in the 2016-17 season. The North-Eastern side made a low-profile signing from Sporting Clube de Goa but it turned into a masterpiece of a transfer.

    Mahmoud was a linchpin in midfield, an important element in the side that created history against all odds. After a solid season with Aizawl, Mahmoud was captured by East Bengal, with whom he won the Calcutta Football League (CFL) the following season. After a year each with the Bengal giants and Minerva Punjab, the Syrian signed for I-League second division side Southern Samity, where he currently plays.

  • Chencho Gyeltshen Churchill Brothers Minerva Punjab FC I-League 2017/2018

    #6 Chencho Gyeltshen

    Chencho "Bhutanese Ronaldo" Gyesltshen is one of the most skilful players to have played in the I-League in recent times. He signed for Minerva Punjab in 2017 and grew into becoming a crucial element in their title charge. With nine goals in 18 games, Chencho powered the title race till the end with Punjab, guiding them to their first league title in history.

    The I-League 2017-18 forward of the year unsurprisingly attracted eyeballs, most prominently that of Indian Super League (ISL) finalists Bengaluru FC. The Bhutanese forward became a Bengaluru player for the 2018-19 season but failed to make a real impact at the club, owing mainly due to lack of playing time.

  • Erik Paartalu v Chennaiyin FC

    #7 Erik Paartalu

    One of the most consistent players on the Bengaluru roster in the last three years, Erik Paartalu is perhaps one of the best Asians to have played in the ISL. The midfielder is usually seen in a double pivot with Spaniard Dimas Delgado, constituting one of the most complete midfields in the league.

    Paartalu joined Bengaluru in 2017 and has been a starter ever since as Bengaluru went on to qualify for the playoffs three times, make the final twice and win the title once in the last three years.

    The Australian is also deadly in set-piece instances and has scored nine goals in the last three seasons. He also has eight assists to his name despite operating mainly as a defensive midfielder who likes to drop between the centre-backs.

  • Douglas Silva,Tolgay Ozbey

    #8 Tolgay Ozbey

    Australian striker Tolgay Ozbey boasts of an incredible scoring ratio at both the Bengal clubs. He joined East Bengal in 2010 and scored 65 goals in 84 games in two seasons. He then joined rivals Mohun Bagan and spent one season in which he scored 14 goals. The striker returned to Sydney in 2015 after short stints at Mohammedan, Dempo and FC Goa.

    Ozbey could not get his hands on any of the major titles during his time in India. But his sharpness in front of goal and consistency across all teams makes him one of the best Asian strikers to have played in the country,

  • Akram Moghrabi celebrating with team-mates, Churchill Brothers SC vs Prayag United SC, I-League

    #9 Akram Moghrabi

    Lebanese striker Akram Moghrabi was a crucial cog in the Churchill Brothers side that won the I-League in the 2012-13 season. He scored 10 goals in 18 games that campaign to lead the Goan side to the summit.

    After stints at Lebanese side Nejmeh and Tripoli, Moghrabi returned to India, signing for Mohun Bagan in 2018. However, he spent a brief period there,  registering just nine caps.

  • ND Opara, Bilal Najjarine, Mumbai FC vs Churchill Brothers, I-League

    #10 Bilal Najjarine

    Yet another Lebanese player on the list, Bilal Najjarine was a rock at the back for Churchill Brothers in the 2012-13 title-winning season. The Goan side conceded just 22 goals in 26 games and Bilal had a huge role to play in it. He led the back-line and left an everlasting impact on the club's history books despite spending just one season at the club.
  • David Williams v Chennaiyin FC

    #11 David Williams

    Despite spending just one season in India, Australian forward David makes the list due to the sheer impact he had on the ATK side that won the 2019-20 Indian Super League (ISL). The 32-year-old formed a formidable partnership with Fijian striker Roy Krishna and tormented defenders across the league.

    Williams scored seven goals and provided five assists in 18 appearances in an injury-ridden season. He was also instrumental in the come-back against Bengaluru in the second leg of the play-off as he bagged a brace to help ATK win 3-1 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate.

  • Thai - Dusit Chalermsan - Singhtharue

    #12 Dusit Chalermsan

    The versatile Dusit Chalermsan enjoyed a short but fruitful career with Bengal giants Mohun Bagan during the turn of the millenium. Primarily a defender, the Thailand international could also play as a left-midfielder and as a defensive midfielder. He joined the Mariners in 1999 and played an integral role in doing the National Football League (NFL)-Durand Cup double.

    In the next season, Mohun Bagan managed a runners-up finish in the league but won the CFL. Chalermsan, who was also known for his prowess on the dead ball, returned to Thailand in 2001.

  • igor shkvyrin

    #13 Igor Shkvyrin

    Igor Shkvyrin played on Indian soil for only one season. The Uzbek-forward wore the green and maroon shirt and was a key figure of the National Football League (NFL) winning squad of Mohun Bagan in 1999-2000. With 11 goals he became the top-scorer in that edition and his partnership with Jose Barreto upfront was a nightmare for opposition defenders.