With several players joining the league from East, West and especially Central Asia, the competition has been a league of interest for Asian fans since its inception in 1992.
It has played host to star players from some of the continent’s biggest football nations, with League, Cup and European silverware all won by Asian players.
But who stands out from our list of nominees?
Mirdjalal Kasimov (Uzbekistan)
1992, 1994-96, 1999, 2000-01, 2003-04
Clubs: Alania Vladikavkaz, Krylia Sovetov
Honours: Russian League (1995), 3x Top 33 selection
A FIFA U-16 World Cup winner with the Soviet Union in 1987, Kasimov was a star of the early years of the Russian League and holds a special place in the history FC Alania Vladikavkaz.
The Tashkent-born playmaker helped led the club to their greatest ever achievement when they won the title in 1995, scoring 10 goals in 22 matches from midfield and following up with 11 in 17 matches as Alania finished second the following season.
Kasimov scored a memorable goal against Liverpool in the UEFA Cup, becoming the second Asian player after Cha Bum-kun to find the net in European competition, and went on to find success as a coach, guiding Uzbekistan at the 2015 AFC Asian Cup.
Keisuke Honda (Japan)
Club: CSKA Moscow
Honours: Russian Premier League (2012-13), 2x Russian Cup winner, Russian Super Cup (2013), Top 33 (2010)
A man who featured in the shortlist for our Serie A poll, and was arguably unfortunate not to feature in our Eredivisie edition, Kesiuke Honda’s presence here underlines just how successful the Japanese star has been in a range of different environments.
Joining CSKA Moscow at the outset of the 2010 season, Honda endeared himself to the club’s fans by scoring the goal against Sevilla which took them to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in their history, and there would be even better times ahead.
Honda’s four-season stint in Moscow ended with League, Cup and Super Cup titles, making him Japan’s most successful representative in the Russian game, and paving the way for a move to AC Milan.
Sardar Azmoun (IR Iran)
2013 - Present
Clubs: Rubin Kazan, Rostov, Zenit
Honours: Russian Premier League (2018-19), 2x Top 33 selection
Much was expected of Sardar Azmoun when he was snapped up by Kurban Berdyev’s Rubin Kazan as an 18-year-old, and he has grown to become a superstar of Asian football.
The first Iranian to play in the Russian Premier League, the only Iranian to win the league title and the youngest player from his country to score in the UEFA Champions League, one of Azmoun’s most memorable spells came in the second-half of the 2018-19 season, when he scored 12 goals in 16 matches upon joining title-bound Zenit.
Despite almost daily reports linking him to some of Europe’s biggest clubs, the 25-year-old remains in Russia, where he looks set to lift the Premier League once more at the end of the season.
Eldor Shomurodov (Uzbekistan)
2017 - Present
Eldor Shomurodov has announced himself as not only one of Central Asia’s biggest stars but also one of the Russian Premier League’s top marksmen and, at the age of 24, he may be only just getting started
Highly rated as a youngster in his homeland, the former Bunyodkor forward joined FC Rostov in 2017, but it is during the past 12 months that he has exploded into the wider consciousness, scoring 11 league goals to help the club challenge for UEFA Champions League qualification.
At the time of writing Shomurodov is second on the league scoring charts, and with his best days still ahead of him, that may well become a familiar sight in years to come.
Kim Dong-jin (Korea Republic)
Club: Zenit Saint Petersburg
Honours: Russian Premier League (2007), Russian Super Cup (2008), UEFA Cup (2008), UEFA Super Cup (2008), Top 33 (2007)
Kim Dong-jin followed former national team boss Dick Advocaat to Saint Petersburg after the 2006 FIFA World Cup, and his timing proved to be impeccable, as the club embarked on a period of outstanding success.
He played 24 out of 30 league matches as Advocaat steered the club to their first league title in over 20 years in 2007, but it was the UEFA Cup success in 2008 which gives the defender a special place in Korean football history.
His substitute appearance in the final against Rangers made him only the second Korean player, behind Cha Bum-kun, to win a European competition and it was a fitting reward for a man who made an impressive contribution to a superb Zenit side.
Odil Ahmedov (Uzbekistan)
Clubs: Anzhi Makhachkala, Krasnodar
Honours: Anzhi Player of the Season (2011), Krasnodar Player of the season (2014-15), Top 33 (2015)
Known to fans of the AFC Champions League as the super-consistent midfield foil to the likes of Hulk and Oscar at Shanghai SIPG, Odil Ahmedov shone amongst an equally star-studded list of teammates during his time in Russia.
At the ambitious and well-funded Anzhi Makhachkala, Ahmedov played alongside luminaries such as Roberto Carlos, Samuel Eto’o and Willian and made such an impact that he was voted as the club’s Player of the Season in 2011.
He would go on to win the same award at Krasnodar four years later, a season in which he was already recognised as one of the best three defensive midfielders in the league, continuing a fine tradition of Uzbek footballing talent in the Russian game.
Mukhsin Mukhamadiev (Tajikistan)
1992-93, 1994-97, 1998, 1999, 2001
Clubs: Lokomotiv Moscow, Spartak Moscow, Lokomotiv Nizhny Novgorod, Torpedo, Shinnik Yaroslavl
Honours: Russian League (1994)
An outstanding member of a strong Pamir Dushanbe side in the final days of Soviet football, Mukhamadiev played a handful of games in Tajikistan’s newly formed league before joining Lokomotiv Moscow in 1992.
Quick and skilful, the forward won a league title alongside fellow Tajik and former Pamir teammate Rashid Rakhimov at Spartak Moscow in 1994, contributing six goals in 15 matches for a side that lost just once all season.
In a career which featured stints in five different countries, Mukhamadiev appeared for both Tajikistan and Russia in international football and went on to coach a number of sides, including Tajikistan’s national team.
Vitaliy Denisov (Uzbekistan)
Clubs: Lokomotiv Moscow, Krylia Sovetov, Rubin Kazan
Honours: Russian Premier League (2017-18), 2x Russian Cup winner, 3x Top 33 selection
Born into a distinguished footballing family, Vitaliy Denisov signed for CSKA Moscow as a 16-year-old in 2003, but he didn’t play a league match for the 2005 UEFA Cup winners, and six and a half seasons in Ukrainian football meant he had to wait the best part of a decade for his Russian Premier League debut.
Denisov didn’t waste any time showing Russian football fans how good a player he was when he did arrive at Lokomotiv, providing six assists in the 2013-14 season and being voted the best left-back in Russia in the following campaign.
He won Russian Cups in 2015 and 2017 and played a cameo role as Lokomotiv ended a 14-year title drought in the last of his six seasons for the club in 2018, marking another proud chapter in the Denisov dynasty.
Dmitri Khomukha (Turkmenistan)
Clubs: Zenit, CSKA Moscow, Shinnik Yaroslavl, Terek Grozny
Honours: Russian Cup (2004), 2x Top 33 selection
Born in Turkmenistan, and starting his football career in Ashgabat, Dmitri Khomukha became a consistent and respected member of a strong CSKA Moscow side in the late 1990s.
In four seasons from 1997 to 2000, Khomukha played 132 games and scored 30 goals for CSKA, but it was his time at Terek Grozny that produced his only major piece of silverware, with the Chechen outfit claiming the Russian Cup for the first and only time in 2004.
Khomukha made a handful of appearances for the Turkmenistan national team, including during the 1998 Asian Games, and went on to become a highly regarded coach in Russia, leading the national U-17 team to the European title in 2013 and the U-19 side to a continental runners-up medal two years later.
Vladimir Maminov (Uzbekistan)
Club: Lokomotiv Moscow
Honours: 2x Russian Premier League winner, 5x Russian Cup winner, 2, Russian Super Cup winner, 3x Top 33 selection
Moscow-born and a one-club player for Lokomotiv Moscow, Vladimir Maminov’s football career has had significantly more to do with Russia than Uzbekistan, but his 12-cap international career for the White Wolves qualifies him for inclusion on our shortlist.
In addition to his four-year spell in the Uzbekistan national team, the former midfielder had an exceptional club career, winning a swag of trophies and appearing for Lokomotiv 401 times in all competitions, the second most of any player in the club’s history.
The high point of Maminov’s career arguably came in 2004, when he was voted the best defensive midfielder in Russian football as Lokomotiv edged out CSKA to win the title.
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