FourFourTwo's 50 Best Asian Players 2015: 20-16
Below are numbers 20-16, including a lad linked with a big money Premier League move, the Chinese Sergio Ramos and a free-scoring Qatari striker.
Words: Teng Kiat, Gary Koh, Jeremy Lim, Mihyun Chung and Zee Ko.
20. Kim Young-gwon
Did you know? Kim has twice been named in the Chinese Super League Team of the Year, in 2013 and 2014.
Former Guangzhou Evergrande manager Marcello Lippi praised Kim in 2013, saying he was good enough to play for Manchester United. Two years have passed and the left-footed defender is still in China. However, with his excellent first touch and shooting technique he has established himself at club level and with the national team. Kim has now been linked with Europe’s top clubs including AC Milan. While he has to cut out occasional mistakes, the 25-year-old definitely has the potential for a career at the top level. MC
19. Yoshinori Muto
Did you know? After three goals in four games, Muto was named March MVP in the J.League.
Muto's career trajectory has been almost as rapid as the fleet-footed Japan international himself. The winger’s direct running and dribbling led to 13 league goals as he finished FC Tokyo’s top scorer in the 2014 J.League season. The 2015 campaign began in similar fashion with him racing up the scoring charts. Former Japan coach Javier Aguirre was impressed and picked Muto in his 2015 AFC Asian Cup squad, after giving him his senior debut last September. There is also every indication new Samurai Blue boss Vahid Halilhodzic holds the effervescent attacker in the same regard. JL
18. Zhang Linpeng
Did you know? Zhang scored from the halfway line in Guangzhou Evergrande's 6-1 CSL home win over Liaoning Whowin.
The comparisons to Sergio Ramos are undeniable. Just like the Spaniard, Zhang is an attack-minded right-back who can operate just as easily in central defence for both club and country. Fiery, reliable and highly-rated by ex-Guangzhou Evergrande coach Marcello Lippi, the 26-year-old has now won three consecutive Chinese Super League titles under the Italian. A fourth under Fabio Cannavaro might not be on the cards, as he has attracted plenty of interest from Inter Milan of late. There seems little left to achieve in Asia for the one-time national team captain and Italy looks a tantalising destination for one of China's best defenders of recent years. ZK
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17. Maya Yoshida
Did you know? Yoshida was the first player from Japan to sign a contract extension with an English Premier League club.
Like a sponge, Maya Yoshida has absorbed every attack thrown at Southampton this season. The Japanese rock has absorbed every lesson from Ronald Koeman too, embracing the opportunity to hone his craft under one of football history's finest defenders. The 26 year-old’s transformation from misfit to mainstay has been obvious under the Dutchman, with his organisational skills and calmness under pressure forming the bedrock of the soaring Saints. Always on the lookout for ways to progress, the ambitious Yoshida is also with an ambitious club now where challenging for the Europa League remains a distinct possibility next term. JL
16. Khalfan Ibrahim
Did you know? In September, Ibrahim scored his 63rd goal for Al Sadd and became the club's all-time scorer.
It is perhaps something of a mystery that Qatar’s most talented player at the moment is not already plying his trade in Europe. Linked with a move to Turkish giants Besiktas after a good start to the 2013/14 season, the transfer never materialised. The fleet-footed attacker continued to sparkle for Al-Sadd despite a trophy-less season, in the process becoming the club’s all-time top scorer. Khalfan also accounted for one of Qatar’s two goals at the Asian Cup, having scored four goals in six qualifying games to lead them to Australia. The 2006 Asian Player of the Year has already bagged 16 goals in 23 games in the new season and if his form continues, Europe will surely come calling. TK
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