Al Shabab and South Korea goalkeeper Kim Seung-Gyu among Asian stars excelling for Saudi Pro League clubs
It’s said that football is the world game and that is absolutely reflected in Roshn Saudi League, with players from all corners of the globe opting to play their club football in Saudi Arabia.
In total, players from almost 50 different countries across almost all continents – Africa, Asia, South America, North America and Europe – have represented Saudi Pro League clubs this term, demonstrating just how attractive it is to players across the globe.
While Africa, Europe and South America provide the vast majority of foreign talent there is a small, but talented, contingent of players from Asia.
We profile each of them here.
KIM SEUNG-GYU – SOUTH KOREA (AL SHABAB)
The 32-year-old goalkeeper arrived at Al Shabab ahead of this 2022/23 season having amassed a wealth of experience playing in both his homeland and Japan for clubs like Ulsan Hyundai, Kashiwa Reysol and Vissel Kobe.
A towering presence, he has a great international pedigree, playing more than 70 times for the Taeguek Warriors, including all four games during the recent FIFA World Cup in Qatar, making a number of crucial saves including in their dramatic win over Portugal to book their spot in the Round of 16.
His excellence between the sticks has been shown by nine clean sheets across 18 top-flight appearances, plus October’s incredible penalty save from Odion Ighalo in the Riyadh derby with Al Hilal.
JANG HYUN-SOO – SOUTH KOREA (AL HILAL)
A former South Korea centre-bck, with almost 60 caps to his name, Jang has become an ever-present fixture in defence for champions Al Hilal since joining from FC Tokyo in 2019.
A reliable, no-frills defender, Jang has made more than 120 appearances for Al Hilal and was also named in the Riyadh Season XI that played against Lionel Messi’s Paris Saint-Germain earlier this year
The club has a long tradition of signing Korean players. Legendary defender Lee Young-pyo played for the club between 2009-2011, Yoo Byung-soo followed between 2011-2013, while Kwak Tae-hwi played 84 games for the club between 2014-2016 after arriving from Al Shabab.
SAAD NATIQ – IRAQ (ABHA)
Iraqi football is riding the crest of a wave after January’s Arabian Gulf Cup success, and one player hoping to catch the eye of new coach Jesus Casas is Saad Natiq.
The centre-back, who joined Abha at the start of this season, is no stranger to the national team having featured for the Lions of Mesopotamia since 2015. With previous experience playing in Qatar, most notably for Al Arabi, he also twice won the AFC Cup with Al Quwa Al Jawiya in 2016 and 2018.
His aerial threat was demonstrated earlier this month with the opening goal in Abha’s 2-0 win against promoted Al Khaleej.
JALOLIDDIN MASHARIPOV – UZBEKISTAN (AL NASSR)
The 29-year-old has been considered one of Uzbekistan’s most exciting talents, since debuting for the national team in 2016.
He joined Al Nassr in 2020, spending the first season on loan to Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club in the UAE, before returning for the 2021/22 season during which he established himself as a regular, scoring twice in their thumping 5-1 win over Al Wahda in the quarter-finals of the AFC Champions League.