Could Seung Woo Ryu (l., against Congo DR's Jonathan Bijimine) be South Korea's next big thing in the German game...
Could Seung Woo Ryu (l., against Congo DR's Jonathan Bijimine) be South Korea's next big thing in the German game...

Ryu and Maruoka following in distinguished footsteps

Munich - Having missed out on the chance to join Borussia Dortmund following a trial last summer, it was a case of second time lucky in the Bundesliga for Seung Woo Ryu, who was snapped up by Bayer 04 Leverkusen from Jeju United FC last month on an initial year-long loan.

Ryu quick off the mark for Bayer

Dortmund have meanwhile been active themselves in the Far East market over the winter recess, bringing Japanese prospect Mitsuru Maruoka on board from Cerezo Osaka. The loan arrangement here extends to 30 June 2015 with BVB, like Bayer, having the option to then thrash out a long-term deal. takes a look at the league's two latest far eastern recruits looking to follow in the distinguished footsteps of the likes of Heung Min Son and Shinji Kagawa respectively.

Woo Ryu may as yet be an unknown quantity in the Bundesliga but he demonstrated his credentials on the international stage last summer, chipping in with a couple of goals to help South Korea into the knockout stages of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey. He has not been slow to make an impression for his new club either, earning a penalty and netting once himself in the second half of an hour-long friendly against Dutch outfit SC Heerenveen at Bayer's winter training camp in Lagos, Portugal.

After the match, skipper Simon Rolfes praised the 20-year-old newcomer for his “intelligent play, good movement and use of space". Head coach Sami Hyypiä was likewise satisfied, all the more as he explained to sports magazine kicker given that Ryu “doesn't speak German or English and my Korean isn't the best either. With that in mind, he's integrated really well.” Help is close at hand on the linguistic front, however, in the form of compatriot Heung Min Son.

One for the future

Although only 18 months older, Son is already a five-year veteran of the German game and it is no coincidence that Ryu, too, has landed up at Leverkusen, as he explained to “Sonny had nothing but good things to say about the club. He'll always help me out.” Whether he will be quite so close at hand in the immediate future remains to be seen, however, as with shooting star Julian Brandt, another winter signing, and Son himself, Bayer already have options aplenty out wide. Indeed,given their current strong form, they may well decide to farm Ryu out to to a Bundesliga 2 side on loan.

Borussia Dortmund certainly have no shortage of midfield talent of their own but they have also added to their ranks with the acquisition of Maruoka. The budding playmaker from Tokushima only turned 18 on 6 January and that very day put pen to paper on a professional contract with the beaten 2013 UEFA Champions League finalists.

In Kagawa's footsteps

Maruoka is not earmarked for an immediate place in the senior squad either, with the BVB U-23s his first likely port of call. That said, head coach Jörgen Klopp has form when it comes to giving Japanese prospects an early break.

Shinji Kagawa also made the journey from Osaka to Dortmund in 2010 and within months, the previously unknown summer signing had become a household name far beyond the confines of the Ruhr district. Now Kagawa plays for English record champions Manchester United and enjoys superstar status back in Japan. It's another inspiring example for the Bundesliga's freshest far-eastern duo.

Sebastian Blome/Angus Davison