As the start of the Thai League season is only a week away, we take a look the the best foreign players to have grace the league. These imported players have played a pivotal role in helping the league grow from both a commercial aspect as well has quality on the pitch. We at Soccer Thailand have listed our top 10 players to have played in the league since its inception in 1996, taking into account the players quality, achievements and lasting impact on the Thai league. Due to the sheer dominance that Buriram United and Muangthong United have shown during the last decade many of the players on this list will have affiliation to one of these two dominating clubs.
10) David Rochela | Spain | Instagram: drochela
Picture from Migrantesdelbalon
David moved to the Buriram United in the summer of 2014 along with another player on this list. The centre back proved an important part of the team helping them become 2014 league champions with his defensive organisation and reading of the game. The following year he was loaned out to Port FC, where he subsequently earned a permanent contract. It was this move to Port FC which really cemented David Rochela’s position on this list. David Rochela understanding of the game and composure on the ball has earned him a reputation as on the the league’s best defenders. He has gone on to become the leader of the squad whilst receiving cult hero status with from Port’s notoriously passionate fans. David Rochela’s most notable achievement will be helping Port navigate the precarious position of the second tier in 2016 helping the club winning promotion and go on to re-establish itself as one of Thailand’s top clubs. Port FC will be looking to challenge for the Thai League title this upcoming season with David Rochela leading the way.
9) Frank Acheampong | Ghana | Instagram: frakj18
Picture from RTBF
Frank Acheampong is notable for using the Thai League as a launchpad for a career in Europe after impressive displays for Buriram United. Acheampong moved to Thailand in 2011 as a fresh faced 17 year old straight from the academy of Ghanian club Berekum Chelsea. From the get go the the Ghanian winger showed his talent with a strong dribbling ability and an eye for goal. For two seasons Acheampong was the main attacking threat as Buriram United won the treble in 2011 as they stomped to their first league title as well as winning the Thai FA cup and League Cup. The following season saw Acheampong help Buriram United win the Thai FA cup and League cup double. His impressive displays drew admirers from Europe with Acheampong signing for Anderlecht for a reported €1 million. The speedy winger would go on to play over 100 times for Anderlecht before moving to the Chinese league with Tianjin TEDA. Frank Acheampong arrival in Thailand marked a turning of the tide in Thai football as Muangthong had been the dominant side for many years.
8) Mario Gjurovski | Macedonia | Instagram: mariodjurovski
Picture from Fourfourtwo
Mario Gjurovski has had an illustrious career in Thai football having joined Muangthong United from Serbian club FK Vojvodina in 2012. Mario Gjurovski would help Muangthong reassert their dominance in the Thai League after Buriram had won their first league title in 2011. The attacking midfielder played an important role in helping Muangthong retain the league in 2012 scoring 15 goals in 34 games impressing fans and pundits alike not only for his goal scoring feats but also his for his creative contributions. Gjurovski became known for his impressive vision and passing ability often providing assists for his team mates. Mario Gjurovski would play a further three seasons for Muangthong, however was unable to help the club win another league title 2012 when Buriram fully asserted their dominance. Gjurovski would play a total of 121 games scoring 59 goals before cancelling a contract extension to sign for new powerhouses Bangkok United. For his new club Gjurovski would play a more advanced role and continue his rich goal scoring form. However he was unable to help Bangkok United win the much coveted Thai League title. In 2018, after two seasons Gjurovski joined Bangkok Glass in their season of turmoil where the were related. However Gjurovski did enough to impress to get signed by his former employers Muangthong United as they seek to win the Thai League once again in 2019.
7) Go Seul-ki | South Korea
Picture from Fox Sport Asia
Go Seul-ki moved to Buriram in 2015 after most notably playing for Korean powerhouses Ulsan Hyundai FC and Qatari Premier League side El Jaish SC. The deep lying playmaker quickly established himself as a key cog in the Buriram midfield helping the club win the 2015 and 2017 league titles. Known for his work rate and with an eye for goal Go Seul-ki pulled the strings for one of Thailand’s most successful ever sides for three seasons. Go Seul-ki would have a brief stint away from the Thai league for the 2018 season returning to Korea to play for Incheon United FC. However as of the 2019 season Go Seul-ki has returned to the Thai League, this time with the intention of helping Port FC win their first league title.
6) Carmelo González | Spain
Picture from Sporting News
Carmelo González joined Buriam in the 2013 along with the previously mentioned David Rochela and enjoyed instant success helping Buriam claim back to back league championships whilst becoming top scorer in his first season scoring 23 goals in 23 games from midfield. Though the following season saw Carmelo González score less goals he was still an important part of the team that regained the Thai League title 2014. The experienced Spanish midfielder had previously who had a long career in La Liga most notably playing for Las Palmas, Levante, and Sporting de Gijón over a ten year period. His experience showed as he was able to provide teammates with leadership and tactical awareness during one of the most successful periods in Buriram United’s history. Carmelo González would only play two seasons for Buriram before moving to high spending Suphanburi FC in 2015 for the season with moderate success. Carmelo González would go on to play for UAE club Al-Ittihad Kalba for a season then return to his homeland to play in the provincial divisions of Spain before retiring in 2018.
5) Cleiton Silva | Brazil | Instragram: cleitonsilva23
Picture from Fourfourtwo
Cleiton Silva may be the first Brazilian on this list but he certainly won’t be the last. The talented striker has had three separate stints in Thailand starting with Osotspa Samut Prakan (now Jumpasri United) in 2010. After two seasons Cleiton Silva moved to BEC Tero Sasana which is where he really made his mark scoring 42 goals in 63 games and winning many admirers in the process. However, Silva moved to the now defunct Delfines FC for a season in 2013 before returning Muangthong United FC the following season. In 2015 Cleiton Silva hit the ground running scoring 25 goals in 33 games but was unable to land the league title with Muangthong. The following season proved be the Brazilian strikers best scoring 27 goals in 28 games whilst winning his first Thai League title with Muangthong United. The stickers form once again drew admirers from foreign fields along as their riches as he joined Chinese League One club Shanghai Shenxin FC. The following season saw Shanghai saw Cleiton Silva return to Thailand for his third stint, this time for Chiangrai United . However injuries and loss of form saw him move on loan to Suphanburi FC for the tail end of the 2018 season where he regained his form scoring 9 goals in 12 games. This earned Cleiton Silva a permanent move to Suphanburi where he will form a deadly partnership with compatriot Jonatan Ferreira Reis for the 2019 season.
4) Heberty | Brazil | Instagram: heberty.fernandes
Picture from MTUTD TV
The jet heeled winger made a name for himself in the Thai at Ratchaburi Mitr Phol FC when he joined in 2014. Explosive displays soon followed as Heberty caught the eye by spear heading the Ratchaburi attack and scoring 26 goals in 36 games helping the club finish in an impressive 4th position. The following 2015 season saw Hebert maintain his impressive form and goal scoring feats, helming the club maintain a respectable mid table finish of 7th while playing 34 games 19 goals. Heberty was at his best once again in this third and final season at Ratchaburi scoring 20 goals in 20 games. His time at Ratchaburi would be remembered for his supreme dribbling and goal scoring ability which allowed The Dragons to momentarily compete with the Thai footballing elite. Heberty would then have a brief stint in the Saudi Professional League with Al-Shabab FC for a season but soon returned to Thailand, this time joining Thai football superpowers Muangthong United. Heberty quickly established himself as the star man in this new Muangthong team as they were going through a transitional phase following the departures of key international players. Heberty has carried on his impressive form dazzling fans which his trickery and creativity on the wings as well as goals and assists. In the 2018 season Heberty was one of the leagues top performers notching 26 goals and 12 assists. Heberty will once again be spearheading the Muangthong United attack as the desperately try to regain their Thai League crown.
3) Dragan Bošković | Montenegro | Instagram: bole_07
Picture from Thai League
The Montenegrin goal machine has truly established himself as a Thai footballing legend without ever having won a major trophy. This says a lot about his goal scoring prowess as well as his endearment to the fans which has allowed him to place so high in this list of top foreigners to have played in the Thai League. Dragan Bošković was introduced to the Thai League when he signed for Suphanburi FC in 2013. Bošković has a modest first season in the Thai League scoring 12 goals in 38 goals, though he did help Suphanburi finish in an impressive 4th position. The following season saw Dragan Bošković sign for high spending Bangkok United as they look to win the Thai League. This move propelled Bošković to the next level as he was now part of a title challenging team. Dragan Bošković first season proved to be of moderate success as he scored only 13 goals as Bangkok United finished 5th, however the following season pushed Muangthong to the very limit as they looked for their first league title. Bošković was at the forefront of this title challenge forming a formidable attacking trio with Jaycee John and Mario Gjurovski. In 2017 Bošković proved himself to be one of the leagues best striker scoring a staggering 38 goals, the most any player has ever scored in a Thai League season Bangkok United once again failed to win the league. Bošković impressive performance in the 2017 season saw a big money move to Port FC for a reported 50 million baht. Bošković carried on his scoring form for new club Port FC scoring 21 goals in 33 games. Bošković will lead the Port team for the 2019 season as they look to become Thailand’s best club once again.
Video from FK Gaming TH
2.) Andrés Túñez | Venezuela | Instagram: andrestu87
Picture from FOX sports
Andrés Túñez joined Buriram midway though the 2014 from La Liga club Celta de Vigo. The Venezuelan centre back settled in very quickly showing defensive organisation, composure on the ball and scoring ability from set pieces. Even though Andrés Túñez joined midway though the 2014 season his impact was immediately felt as he formed a rock solid defensive partnership with David Rochela as they helped Buriram win another league title whilst maintaining the best defensive record. The form of Andrés Túñez inadvertently resulted in the departure of David Rochela. For the 2015 season, Andrés Túñez carried on his impressive form building a solid partnership with Koravit Namwisetas they once again regained the league title with Buriram maintaining their best defensive record conceding only 24 goals in 34 games. Andrés Túñez maintained good form scoring 9 league goals but was unable to prevent Muangthong United from winning back the Thai League title. His good form saw Spanish Segunda División side Elche CF acquire the centre back for the season where he was a regular starter. Eventually Andrés Túñez was recalled back to Buriram where he once again helped the club win the 2018 league title. Over the years Andrés Túñez has proved to be the defensive lynchpin on which they have built much of their success around and raised the standard of defending in the Thai League.
1.) Diogo Luís Santo | Brazil | Instagram: diogoluis_santo
Picture from Sanook
He came, he conquered he left a legend pretty much sums up Diogo’s time in Thai football. The Brazilian will not only go down as the best striker the league has ever seen but arguably the best player also. Known for his goal scoring instinct as well as vision and ability to set team mates up. Having joined Buriram in 2015 from Brazilian club Palmeriras and hit the ground running with a staggering 33 goals in 32 appearances. The second season Diogo suffered with injuries and only managed 11 games scoring 8 goals. Buiram greatly missed by their star man and were unable to reclaim their title that year, showing his importance to the side. However Buriam and Diogo were back in force in 2017, stomping to the title once again with the Brazilian scoring 26 goals in 29 games. Diogo’s fourth and final season proved to be his best as he managed 34 goals in 33 games as Buriram once again ran away with the Thai League title. In the four seasons that Diogo Luís Santo graced the Thai League, he achieved and impressive 101 goals in 105 games while also winning and equally impressive 3 league titles, 1 Thai FA cup, and 2 Thai League cups. At the end of the 2018 season Diogo sealed a big money transfer to Malaysian champions Johor Darul Ta’zim FC. It will be interesting how how Buriram continue life without their star striker and if they will be able to hang on to their crown as Thai champs.