After weeks of consultations with the experts and many rounds of discussions (and arguments), it's finally here – FourFourTwo's inaugural list of Asia's 50 best football players.
Below are numbers 25-21, including a South Korean player exempted from military duty, Japan's answer to Andrea Pirlo and an Iraqi fullback who's shown maturity beyond his years.
Words: Teng Kiat, Gary Koh, Jeremy Lim, Mihyun Chung and Zee Ko.
25. Andranik Teymourian
Did you know? Teymourian has played for three English sides in his career — Bolton, Fulham and Barnsley.
Veteran central midfielder Teymourian continues to be a mainstay for Iran as he performed creditably in the World Cup last year and excelled in the Asian Cup. He emerged as one of the leading playmakers after his three assists impacted the outcome in two group games and led to the first equaliser in the quarter-finals. At club level, the previous season’s Most Valuable Player made a mid-season switch to Iran Pro League frontrunners Tractor Sazi Tarbiz as he pursued further domestic success. GK
24. Dhurgam Ismail
Did you know? Ismail was selected among the eight best defenders at the 2015 AFC Asian Cup.
Iraqi left-back sensation Dhurgham Ismail spent the Asian Cup impressing onlookers with displays worthy of a veteran. Yet his maturity should not be so startling. Growing up as Saddam Hussein’s reign was toppled, the sights and sounds of war had already impacted his outlook. Ismail represented the hopes of a nation seeking to rebuild at the Asian Cup in Australia. Composed in defence and explosive in attack as Iraq made it to the semi-finals of the competition, the 20-year-old is now in Liverpool’s sights. It appears both Ismail and his country have bright futures ahead of them. JL
23. Kim Jin-su
Did you know? Kim featured in every game as South Korea won gold at the 2014 Asian Games.
The 2014/15 season could not be going better for this young Korean left back. After his move to Bundesliga club TSG 1899 Hoffenheim at the beginning of this season, Kim has already become a regular starter. He participated in last year’s Asian Games and won the gold medal with his team, which freed him from compulsory military duty. Although he made a crucial mistake in the final, he shone throughout the Asian Cup campaign with his two assists during the tournament and solid defensive skills. What excites fans is that he is only 22 years old and there is little doubt he has a bright future ahead of him. MC
22. Mathew Leckie
Did you know? Leckie has six goals and four assists in the 2014-15 2. Bundesliga season.
The Socceroos will never be short of football talents. Quick, strong and determined, this 24-year-old forward started to gain recognition during the 2014 World Cup. Leckie settled quickly at German second-division leaders Ingolstadt as a regular starter. His fine display for the club earned him a role in Australia’s Asian Cup squad where he would collect his first continental trophy. What truly raised his reputation was his near flawless performance against Germany in an international friendly this year. Though unable to score, he created a lot of critical chances for his teammates, which helped his side to a 2-2 draw with the reigning world champions. He could well play an important role for Australia in years to come. MC
21. Yasuhito Endo
Did you know? Endo has over 150 caps for Japan, making him the most capped player in their history.
After playing a bit-part role at the World Cup with two appearances off the bench, Japan’s most-capped player worked his way back into the side for the Asian Cup and struck their first goal at the tournament. Endo started every game, though the defending champions crashed out in the quarter-finals. Revered as his country’s equivalent of Italian maestro Andrea Pirlo, Endo has enjoyed a lot of success at club level. The playmaker and dead-ball expert missed only seven minutes in 34 league games as he drove Gamba to a remarkable J.League triumph, considering the club had been promoted as J-League 2 champions only the season prior. He was also named the league's MVP. TK
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