European club tours of Asia continue to target region's football revenues (and bargain players)

European football clubs are visiting major Asia cities to earn a bigger slice of the region's growing wealth, Simon Thompson, East Asian head of Asian Football Confederation marketing partner, World Sport Group, told AFP.

"They're like any brand, any modern-day company," he said. "Asia is a big part of the global economy now. Alongside Brazil and Russia, it's a huge growth market, and like any brands, they want a piece of it.They have to keep ever growing and Asia has the ability to drive good numbers."

Andre Villas-Boas, new manager of English Premier League club Chelsea, agrees. "It is important for the club to expand its brand in the Asian market, so that is important to show ourselves to them as well," he commented this month.

However, according to the news agency's Peter Stebbings, Europe's wealthy football clubs are also "sniffing around the hottest young talent in Asia" to find inexpensive prospects that will not break the bank.

"The paltry amounts for Asian players compare starkly with the extortionate prices Premier League clubs have invested in English players this summer, including Liverpool's reported 20 million pounds on Sunderland midfielder Jordan Henderson," he wrote.

Japanese media supports his analysis. "The German clubs have learned that Japan has many talented players they do not need to pay transfer fees for," Japanese sports magazine Number said. And Japan Times columnist Andrew McKirdy commented that Europe's bargain-hunting is evidence of an ever-increasing standard of quality among young Japanese players, but also of a growing awareness in Europe that the J-League offers fertile ground for cheap talent.