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 10-6, including the Asian Cup top scorer, a captain for both club and country and the best goalkeeper in Asia.
Words: Teng Kiat, Gary Koh, Jeremy Lim, Mihyun Chung and Zee Ko.
10. Ali Mabkhout
Did you know? Mabkhout finished top scorer at the 2015 Asian Cup with five goals.
The 2015 Asian Cup Golden Boot winner with a golden touch, Ali Mabkhout scored five goals and inspired a blossoming United Arab Emirates team to their best finish in the competition since reaching the final in 1996. A brace in his country’s opening game with Qatar and an edge-of-the-box volley against Japan stood out. No goal was more important than Mabkhout’s winner versus Iraq, scored from the penalty spot to clinch third-place for the UAE. Comfortable on either wing, or coming from deep, the frontman’s upwardly-mobile career could soon take him to a European club. JL
9. Keisuke Honda
Did you know? Honda has scored six goals from 34 shots in the 2014-15 Serie A season.
The Japanese star simply could not stop scoring at the start of the season. With six goals in his first seven Serie A matches, it looked like this would be Honda’s breakthrough European campaign. However, the midfielder’s form tailed off dramatically after that, though he did fare better with the Samurai Blue. A goal and an assist at the World Cup was followed by a goal in each of the three Asian Cup group games, though he missed in the shootout as UAE eliminated them at the quarter-finals. Honda still remains one of Asia’s leading lights who can cut it at the highest level, but he will be hoping to be more consistent next season. TK
8. Mat Ryan
Did you know? Ryan tops the clean sheets list in the Europa League this season with three.
A disappointing World Cup campaign aside, Ryan will look back on the past year with few regrets. Mark Schwarzer’s retirement meant a new Australian No. 1, and the Club Brugge goalkeeper grabbed the opportunity with both hands as he edged out Mitch Langerak. Named the Belgian Pro League’s best custodian for the second year running, Ryan was spectacular between the posts for Australia in their run to the Asian Cup title, clinching the Best Goalkeeper award and repaying Ange Postecoglou’s faith in him. Liverpool are reportedly interested in taking the 23-year-old to Anfield and why not? On current form, Ryan is the best stopper in Asia by some distance. ZK
7. Nasser Al-Shamrani
Did you know? Al-Shamrani is the all-time leading scorer in the AFC Champions League with 27 goals.
It’s a shame that the reigning Asian Footballer of the Year is perhaps more famous for his spitting “exploits” in the AFC Champions League final last November. He received an eight-month ban in the tournament but football-wise, the Saudi maestro was simply superb. He hit 23 goals in 29 games in domestic competitions and 10 in the Champions League, though Al-Hilal finished runners-up in all three tournaments. More disappointment followed with his country as they finished runners-up in the Gulf Cup and suffered group stage elimination at the Asian Cup. Despite this, Al-Shamrani is arguably at the peak of his career and is one of the region’s finest, while the goals have already flowed freely again this season. TK
6. Mile Jedinak
Did you know? Jedinak averages 4.4 tackles per Premier League game, the third best in the league.
Jedinak may not have been Australia’s most talented player in their 2015 AFC Asian Cup win, but he was certainly one of their most important. The midfield warrior provided the stability required for others to force the issue higher up the pitch. Jedinak was an ever-present from the quarter-finals as he captained his country to their inaugural trophy. Alan Pardew likewise trusts the Crystal Palace skipper to supply the bite for his team in the Premier League. Weighing in with his share of goals at club-level too, Jedinak has been instrumental for a side that comfortably achieved top-flight survival. JL
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