In 2021 probably we will see the new Fifa Club World Cup and tree teams from Asia will partecipate. Considering that, at the first edition of the cup, clubs will be invited for historical merits, let’s see who are the most succesful clubs in Asia.
In the assingnment of the points, we considered only four Asian competitions and three of them doesn’t exist anymore: the current AFC Champions League and the dissolved Asian Cup Winner’s Cup, the Asian SuperCup, and the Afro-Asian Championship. In this case, we don’t consider valid the regional trophies like the Arab Champions League or the A3 Championship. We don’t also count competitions where only clubs from developing nations can partecipate like the current AFC Cup.
After this preview, let’s take a look at the result: who are the most winning clubs in Asia?
1° : AL HILAL (SAUDI ARABIA) – 6 International Trophies
2°: SUWON BLUEWINGS (SOUTH KOREA) – 5 International Trophies
3°: POHANG STEELERS, SEONGNAM (SOUTH KOREA), AL ITTIHAD (SAUDI ARABIA), THAI FARMER BANK (THAILAND) – 3 International Trophies
Al Hilal is the most winning club in the history of Asia with six titles. The club from Riyadh has won 2 AFC Champions League, two Asian Cup Winner’s Cup and two Asian Super Cup, but they are also unfortunate well know for the record of lost finals in AFC Champions League: Four! The last one in 2017 edition against the Japanese side Urawa Red Diamonds, while in 2014 they were defeated by the underdog Western Sidney Wanders. The last ACL was won in 2000 when Al Hilal won against Jubilio Iwata from Japan. The last international title for Al Hilal was the Asian Cup Winners Cup back in 2002, a 2-1 after extra time against the Korean giant, Jeonbuk Hyundai. In Saudi Arabia, Al Hilal won 15 Times the league and also 8 Kings Cup, 13 Crown Prince Cup and 2 Super Cup. Despite Al Hilal is the most winning club in Asia, it’s more then a decade that they don’t win an international competition.
Suwon Samsung Bluewings
Despite a very young history (the club was founded only in 1995), Suwon Samsung Bluewings is the second most winning club in Asia with 5 Titles: 2 AFC Champions League (2001 and 2002), 1 Asian Cup Winner’s Cup (1998) and two Asian Super Cup (2001 and 2002). Just like Al Hilal, it’s more then a decade that Suwon Bluewings doesn’t win an international title. Last year the Korean side has reached the semifinal in AFC Champions League but didn’t qualify for the current edition after a disappointing 6th place in K-League. The last domestic competition was won in 2016, the FA Cup (four titles in total), while the last K-League (also in this competition four titles in total) back in 2008. After the great glory of the early years, Suwon Samsung Bluewings was not able to stay at the top of Asian Football and in the last decade became just an average team, no more an Asian super power.
For this reason, from South Korea, we belive that Suwon Bluewings in this moment will not be the right choice. The most successful club in K-League recently was Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors FC. The club based in Jeonju in the last five years won the domestic league four times and was crowned Asian Champion for the second time in 2016 (first title was conquered in 2006) when they beated the Al Ain of Omar Abdulrahman.
Pohang Steelers and…
There are many clubs that achieved three international Titles, but none of them is a Top Team in Asia: Pohang Steelers is the most successful club in AFC Champions League with 3 titles, in 1997, 1998 and the last one in 2009 when the final was played in Tokyo and Pohang beated Al Ittihad with the score of 2-1. The Korean side is also far from the glory of the past, the last domestic titles were won in 2013 with a historical double (Legue and FA Cup).
Seongnam in another Korean side with three international titles with 2 AFC Champions League (1995 and 2010) and 1 Asian Super Cup (1996). In 2017 Seongnam was relegated in second Korean division but despite this poor result they were able to achieve the promotion and back in K-League after one year. Seongnam established the record of K-League Titles: 7, the last one won back in 2006. Last time they competed in the ACL was in 2015, when they were eliminated in the round of 16.
Al Ittihad is a fallen giant of Saudi Arabia football after some disappointing seasons including the last one where they were involved in the relegation battle. The club from Jeddah won two AFC Champions League in a row, 2004 and 2005 (beating Seongnam and Al Ain) and the Asian Cup Winners Cup back in 1999 where they won a very exciting final against the Korean side Chunnam Dragons.
The last team with three international titles is the Thai Farmer Bank, a club dissolved after the economic crisis in South East Asia at the end of ‘90s. TFB was able to achieve two AFC Champions League in a row and also won the Afro-Asian Club Championship in 1994 when they defeated the Egyptian side Zamalek after a double leg match.
After the four teams with three international competitions, is plenty of clubs who won just two trophies. If we have to choose the best one in international competition recently, is Guangzhou Evergrande: the Chinese side was the only one able to win two AFC Champions League in the last ten editions and also was crowned Champion of China for Seven years in a row from 2011 to 2017.
At the end of this historical analysis, is clear that, at the current situation, we can’t completelly follow the historical merits to choose the three sides for the hypothetical Fifa Clubs World Cup, but we should focus more on the recent history, because Asian Football, much more then Europe, is a scenario much more unstable, where even the most Succesfull clubs are subjects to upside down seasons. Of course, our first choice will be Al Hilal, the giant from Saudi Arabia, while for the other two Asian spots we would suggest the Korean side Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and the Chinese Guangzhou Evergrande.