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 5-1, including a midfield magician, a record-breaking Bundesliga sharpshooter and the best Asian player of 2015.
Words: Teng Kiat, Gary Koh, Jeremy Lim, Mihyun Chung and Zee Ko.
5. Omar Abdulrahman
Did you know? In 2014, Omar Abdulrahman ranked first in assists in domestic competitions with 19.
The already-burgeoning stock of Arab football’s pin-up boy continues to soar after he inspired United Arab Emirates to a third-place finish in January’s Asian Cup finals. Deceptively languid on the pitch, the attacking midfielder weighed in with four assists to emerge as the joint-top playmaker of the finals and was named in the team of the tournament. A highlight of Abdulrahman's outrageous abilities was the effortless Paneka he chipped over Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima during the quarter-final penalty shootout. With continuing interest from leading European clubs, it might not be long before he heads for an exciting new challenge overseas. GK
4. Tim Cahill
Did you know? Cahill is the Socceroos' highest ever goalscorer with 39 goals to his name.
One might have been forgiven for thinking that Cahill was winding his career down in the MLS. Plenty of Europe’s stars have been doing the same for years now after David Beckham first made the trip across the Atlantic. The World Cup in Brazil showed otherwise, as the evergreen Australian cracked home a stunning volley against the Netherlands which was replayed across television screens around the world for days after. Fast forward six months and Cahill was at it again, scoring three vital goals en route to helping the Socceroos lift the Asian Cup trophy. A move to China represents a new chapter for a veteran in the twilight of his career, but one suspects Cahill is not quite done yet. ZK
3. Ki Sung-yueng
Did you know? Ki has scored eight goals in the 2014-15 season, including in both wins over Manchester United.
Ki became the first ever Asian to score the first goal of the English Premier League season, ruining Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United debut in the process. The 26-year-old midfielder has now become the first Asian to score eight goals in a single season, with three matches to go. He hasn't forgot his original role as a defensive midfielder either, providing a shield for Swansea's back four and contributing to the team’s build-up play with a pass accuracy of 90%. His performances on the continental stage did not disappoint as he led the Taeguk Warriors to the final of 2015 Asian Cup as captain. Just like he stated after Swansea completed the double over Manchester United, it is clear that he is currently in the form of his life. MC
2. Shinji Okazaki
Did you know? Okazaki is the most prolific Japanese player in Bundesliga history with 28 goals.
While many of his Japanese counterparts have suffered from patchy form over the past year, Okazaki has been a model of consistency. The striker has continued scoring regularly for Japan and Mainz, breaking records on both fronts while hardly missing a game. In fact, Okazaki has appeared in all but three games for club and country since the start of the World Cup. The 29-year-old is now third on his country’s all-time scoring charts and the most prolific Japanese goalscorer ever in the Bundesliga. The Samurai Blue could not have asked for a more dependable player to lead the line. ZK
1. Son Heung-min
Did you know? Son has scored 11 goals in 26 appearances in the 2014-15 Bundesliga campaign.
It has not been a perfect past year for Son. Despite his best efforts, South Korea crashed out of the World Cup group stages, and lost the Asian Cup final to an injury time goal to the Socceroos. Yet the forward emerged from both competitions with his reputation enhanced. That was no surprise given his importance to both club and country over the last twelve months. No wonder then that Leverkusen refused to release him for the 2014 Asian Games, despite a chance of a military service exemption if South Korea struck gold. Six games without Son was more than they could bear, as the 23-year-old struck double digits for a second Bundesliga campaign running. ZK
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