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Foreign Superstars who have played in J League

11:48 GMT+3 22/12/2017
Foreign J League
J.League has witnessed an inflow of foreign superstars over the years and here are the best of the lot...

  • Gary Lineker - J.League

    #1 Gary Lineker

    Born 30 November 1960, the British national (ex England national player). Lineker began his career at his local club Leicester City and scored 24 goals in the 1984-85 season. In the following 1985-86 season, he scored 30 goals for his new club Everton and became the top scorer for 2 years running. He joined with Nagoya Grampus Eight (currently Nagoya Grampus) in 1993 when he was 32 years old. His biggest salary contract in J League at that time was big news, however, regrettably, he only played 18 games in 2 years with the club and scored just 4 goals, then retired from activity. He started his England national career in 1984 and played 80 games for the country. He was the ace player at the World Cup in Mexico in 1986, and 1990 in Italy, and became the top-scorer at the Mexico Cup. After the retirement from the activity, he’s been working as a very popular sports commentator with British media.
  • Zico - J.League

    #2 Zico

    Born 3 March 1953, Brazilian national. He passed the entry to Flamengo Academy in Rio de Janeiro when he was 14 years old. Because of his very slim posture he had, he was started to be called with a nickname ‘Zico’ (means ‘skinny’). Zico improved rapidly with his superb technic and decisive ability and became one of the main players in the prestigious Flamengo. Often called the “White Pele”, and played in the World Cup 3 times for Brazil as number 10. He moved and played for Udinese in Italy, returned back to Flamengo, then retired once, but joined Sumitomo Kinzoku Kogyo Shukyu Dan who was then a club in Japanese 2nd league in 1991. He influenced to establish the foundation of current Kashima Antlers who later had their golden age, then decided his 2nd retirement in 1994. Also in 2002, Zico became the manager for the Japanese national team. He conducted the Japan national at the World Cup in Germany in 2006.

  • Diego Forlan - J.League

    #3 Diego Forlan

    Born 19 May 1979, Uruguay national. Born ino soccer families, i.e. he is a grandson of ex-Uruguay national team manager and son of former Uruguay international Pablo Foelan, he trained at prestigious CA Penarol and Danubio FC at his early career, then joined CA Independiente in Argentina. He then moved to Manchester United in England in 2001. He was known as a world-class striker, and played for top soccer teams like Villarreal CF, Atletico Madrid in Spain and Inter Milan. At the World Cup South Africa in 2010 he scored 5 goals and received FIFA Golden Ball Award. Forlan contributed to bring a lot of crowns to his country including the title of Copa America in 2011. He joined to Cerezo Osaka in 2014 and played for them for a year and half.

  • Dunga - J.League

    #4 Dunga

    Born 31 October 1963, Brazilian national. He joined Internacional Academy that was not too far from Ijui in Brazil where he was born and grew up, and made pro debut in 1980. He played at top soccer clubs in Brazil i.e. SC Corinthians, Santos FC, CR Vasco da Gama, then moved to Italy in 1987 and joined in Serie A. He was in Brazil national team since 1982, and was the captain of World Cup team in USA in 1994. He was a defensive midfielder possessing with strong leadership, and led the team to the World Cup victory. Just a year later in 1995, Dunga joined in Jubilo Iwata. He supported the team who were just about entering to their golden age, and made a huge contribution towards the team’s league title win in 1997. He won the Best Player of the Season in J League and the Best Eleven Award in 1997, and won the Best Eleven again in the following year.

  • Dragan Stojkovic - J.League

    #5 Dragan Stojkovic

    Born 3 March 1965, Serbian national. He made his professional debut at FK Radnički Niš, then moved to Red Star Belgrade in 1986. He was a young hopeful, and at the World Cup Italy in 1990 he played for former Yugoslavia national team as number 10, played with full of creativity and contributed to the team to reach to the best 8. In the same year, he was headhunted to Olympique de Marseille in France, and entered into the list of top international players. Stojkovic joined in Nagoya Grampus Eight in 1994. He attracted soccer fans with his elegant play, and led the team to the 2nd Emperor’s Cup title. After retirement from the activity, he became a manager of Grampus Eight in 2008. In the 3rd year as the manager, he succeeded to crown the league title in 2010, and continued his leadership there until 2013. He is now the manager of Guangzhou R&F FC in China.

  • Park Ji-Sung - J.League

    #6 Park Ji Sung

    Born 25 February 1981, South Korean national. He was not very known at his training era, however, after entering Myongji University, he improved his soccer very rapidly and was selected for a member of Korean national under 23. Pushed by the manager, he joined in Kyoto Purple Sanga (currently Kyoto Sanga F.C.) and started showing his presence in his 2nd year with the club who were in J2 League. In January 2003, he contributed towards the Emperor’s Cup title for the club. His good work in Japan was recognized, and in 2002, moved to PSV in Holland that was led by Guus Hiddink who was the manager of South Korea for the World Cup Japan-Korea, and Park helped the team to crown the league victory twice in his 3 years with them. In 2005, he moved to Manchester United and experienced Premier League title success four times and won a UEFA Champions League title. He moved to QPR, then back to his old club PSV, and retired in 2014.

  • Patrick Mboma - J.League

    #7 Patrick Mboma

    Born 15 November 1970, Cameroonian national. His family migrated to France when he was two years old, and he joined to Paris Saint-Germain in 1990. However, he never had a chance to play any matches for the club and repeated limited loans. He joined with Gamba Osaka in 1997. With his overwhelming physical ability, speed and power, he produced many goals and recorded 25 goals in 28 games in his 1st year. Mboma awarded the top-scorer and also the J League Best Eleven. After playing at World Cup in France in 1998, he moved to Italy and joined Cagliari Caicio s.p.a. In Sydney Olympic 2000, he played for the overage team and led the team to the gold medal. After that, he played for Parma, Sunderland and Al-Ittihad, then back to J League in 2003. He played for Tokyo Verdy, and then Vissel Kobe.

  • Pierre Littbarski - J.League

    #8 Pierre Littbarski

    Born 14 April 1960, a German national. He started his career from FC Cologne and became to know as one of the great dribblers in Bundesliga. In 1981, he was selected for former West Germany national team, who became runner-up at World Cup in Spain in 1982 and in Mexico 1986, then the winner of 1990’s World Cup in West Germany. After a long while with FC Cologne, in 1993, he joined to JEF United Ichihara (currently JEF United Ichihara Chiba). He played there for 2 years as the pacemaker, scored 10 goals in 63 games. He retired in 1994 once, however back in play for the 2nd league team Brummel Sendai for 2 years, then became a manager to Yokohama FC and Avispa Fukuoka. Currently, he is the scout manager of VfL Wolfsburg.

  • Hulk - J.League

    #9 Hulk

    Born 25 July 1986, Brazilian national. He signed a professional contract with EC Vitoria when he was 16 years old, then transferred to Kawasaki Frontale when he was 18. In his 2nd year in Japan, in 2006, he was loaned to Consadole Sapporo in J2 League and scored 25 goals in 38 games, then in 2007 he moved to Tokyo Verdy, also in J2, and scored 37 goals in 42 games, showed off his ability of execution at both clubs. In 2008, he moved to Porto, but his overwhelming blasting power was still not forgotten by Japanese fans. Hulk then became a world-class soccer talent and played for Porto and Zenit Saint Petersburg in Russia. As the Brazil national, he attended London Olympic 2012 and the World Cup in Brazil 2014. He’s been playing for Shanghai SIPG in China since 2016.

  • Hristo Stoichkov - J.League

    #10 Hristo Stoichkov

    Born 8 February 1966, a Bulgarian national. Stoichkov was scouted by his local soccer club when he was 10 years old and made professional debut from FC Hebros in 1982. In 1984, he moved to one of the best soccer clubs in Bulgaria, CSKA Sofia, and during his stay at the club they earned many titles including the league title 3 times, and also he became the top-scorer twice. After 1990, he moved to FC Barcelona, Parma in Italy, and back to CSKA Sofia again, and contributed for Barcelona’s league title win in the 1990-91 season, UEFA Champions Cup (current Champions League) title of the 1991-92 season. In 1998, he joined in Kashiwa Reysol, and in his 2nd year with them in 1999, scored for 4 consecutive games and showed off his ability. As Bulgarian national, Stoichkov scored 6 goals at the World Cup in the USA in 1994 and became the top scorer.

  • Fredrik Ljungberg - J.League

    #11 Fredrik Ljungberg

    Born 16 April 1977, a Swedish national. In 1998, he was recognized his play at Halmstads BK in Sweden and signed a contract with the English club Arsenal with the record highest money paid in the Swedish soccer history at the time.  He became one of the core players in the club which was in their golden era, and during his stay at the club they won the league title twice, won FA Cup 3 times, and Ljungberg became an internationally well-known player too. After 2007, he played for West Ham United, Seattle Sounders FC and Chicago Fire in the USA, Celtic in Scotland, then joined Shimizu S-Pulse in 2011. He only played 8 games for Shimizu but made Japanese fans very excited by the international celebrity player came and played in Japan. After Shimizu, he played for Mumbai City FC in India and then retired. As Swedish national, he played in 75 games.

  • Michael Laudrup - J.League

    #12 Michael Laudrup

    Born 15 June 1964, Danish national. He joined the Brondby Academy at his young age and was awarded the Best Player of Denmark in 1982. In 1983, Laudrup moved to Juventus in Italy and contributed to their league title win in 1985-86 season. In 1989, he moved to Barcelona in Spain, and earned the club four consecutive league title wins and Champions Cup (currently Champions League) titles. In 1994, he moved to Real Madrid and was a sensation. He contributed to the club's league title success too and earned 5 consecutive league wins. As a Danish national, he kept his ace status in the team for a long time. In 1996, Laudrup joined Vissel Kobe who were in JFL (aka 2nd division) then, and helped them gain promotion to J1 League.

  • Ramon Diaz - J.League

    #13 Ramon Diaz

    Born 29 August 1959, Argentinian national. At his training era, he was described as one of the two Argentine’s assets with Diego Maradona and became the top-scorer in 1979’s World Youth (currently U20 World Cup). He couldn’t leave remarkable result as an Argentinian national player but showed his abilities off at River Plate, Fiorentina and Internazionale in Italy. From 1989, he played for Monaco in France, and then back to River Plate from 1991, and in 1993, the establishment year of J League, he joined Yokohama Marinos (currently Yokohama F Marinos). In his 1st year with Yokohama, he recorded 28 goals in 32 games, became the 1st top-scorer of J League and left his name in the league’s history book. After the retirement, he became manager of several soccer teams.

  • Leonardo - J.League

    #14 Leonardo

    Born 5 September 1969, Brazilian national. He joined Flamengo Academy when he was 15 years old, and made his top debut at 17. In 1990, he moved to Sao Paulo and contributed to their national title win for 2 times. In 1991 he moved to Valencia in Spain, then back to Sao Paulo. At the World Cup in USA in 1994, he played a great part as a regular for the victorious cup winner team, however he was banned to play by the act of group league’s ‘revenge’. After the World Cup, in 1994, he was invited by Zico and joined Kashima Antlers, and played as a great pacemaker for the team. After that he played for Paris Saint-Germain in France, Milan in Italy, Sao Paulo and Flamengo in Brazil, and then retired from activity in 2003. He’s been working in his 2nd career as front and instructor.

  • Lukas Podolski - J.League

    #15 Lukas Podolski

    Born 4 June 1985, a German national. His has soccer player father and handball player mother, and the family migrated from Poland to Germany when he was two years old. Podolski joined Cologne Academy in 1995, and in 2003 he was promoted to the top team and made the professional debut. Soon after he was selected for the German national team and became a very popular star player, then moved to one of the top German clubs Bayern Munich in 2006. While he was in Bayern he contributed to the league title win once, and as the national player, he played for almost all the major events including the World Cup in Germany in 2006, until his retirement from the national in 2017. He moved to Cologne in 2009, Arsenal in England in 2012, Inter Milan in Italy in 2015, then Galatasaray in Turkey, then has been playing for Vissel Kobe from 2017 to date.