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 50-46, including the Thai Messi, one of the brightest young talents in Uzbek football and an Iranian who played for Germany up to the age of 21.
Words: Teng Kiat, Gary Koh, Jeremy Lim, Mihyun Chung and Zee Ko.
50. Chanathip Songkrasin
Did you know? Songkrasin scored two international goals in December, one against the Philippines and the other against Malaysia.
Thailand’s latest golden generation under coach Kiatisuk ‘Zico’ Senamuang is spearheaded by a pint-sized attacking midfielder. Being small in stature has not stopped Songkrasin becoming the creative heartbeat for the War Elephants as he picked up MVP honours at last year’s AFF Suzuki Cup. Adoring Thai fans have even nicknamed him “Messi Jay” due to a certain similarity with Argentina’s skilful superstar. The 22-year-old may still ply his trade for BEC Tero Sasana in his homeland, but it is only a matter of time before more illustrious pastures beckon, with Korean and Japanese clubs on high alert. ZK
49. Aziz Mashaan
Did you know? While at FK Příbram Mashaan was selected as the fourth best foreign player in the Czech Premier League.
The attacking midfielder played an integral role in helping Czech club Příbram retain their top-flight status before he returned home to rejoin Al-Qadsia in the autumn. He was an instant hit as he weighed in with eight goals in the first half of the Kuwaiti Premier League and featured for his country as an auxiliary forward in January’s Asian Cup finals in Australia. An arm injury in February saw him sidelined for a couple of months and his absence was sorely felt as Al-Qadsia faltered in their title defence to slump to third in the standings. GK
48. Igor Sergeev
Did you know? Sergeev was the top scorer at the 2012 AFC U-19 Championship with seven goals/
The Tashkent youngster is highly-rated in his homeland and has already become a regular for his club over the last two years, scoring a goal almost every other game as Pakhtakor secured the 2014 league title. Sergeev is also making his mark internationally and scored the solitary goal in the White Wolves’ opening Asian Cup victory over North Korea. His 1.87-metre frame, coupled with a powerful physique and keen eye for goal, makes him a fearsome prospect for defenders. With more consistency, Sergeev can become one of Asia’s best and he has already hit the ground running this season with seven goals in as many matches. TK
47. Abdelkarim Hassan
Did you know? The defender scored from 40 yards in his side's 6-2 AFC Champions League home win over Lokomotiv Tashkent in March.
Ever since he became the youngest player to appear at the AFC Champions League when he made his debut at the age of 17, Hassan grabbed Qatari football fans’ attention. Based on his performances so far, he deserves such attention. Regarded as one of the best defenders in the Qatar Stars League, Hassan contributed to the team’s strong performances at the Gulf Cup of Nations and he also excelled in the 2015 Asian Cup qualifiers and group stage. Considering he is still so young at just 21, many predict the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar will propel him to the stardom his talent deserves. MC
46. Ashkan Dejagah
Did you know? Dejagah was voted by fans as Fulham's player of the year at the end of the 2013-14 season.
The right winger transferred his fine form with former club Fulham onto the international stage when he put in impressive displays for Carlos Queiroz’s Iran in the World Cup. However, following his summer move he toiled for Al-Arabi as the Qatar Stars League side struggled through to mid-table mediocrity. A bright spark in an otherwise poor league season, he regained his confidence with Team Melli in the Asian Cup, weighing in with an assist in the group stages to help them into the quarter-finals. GK
The FourFourTwo Asia50 is in association with Samsung SportsFlow – bringing you the most comprehensive sports coverage in one place via a single app. Find out more and download at www.sportsflow.me