Asia 50, 2018: No prizes for guessing who finished No.1 this year!
Tottenham’s Son Heung-min won this year’s top prize in a landslide, making him the first two-time winner in Asia 50 history, after he took out the inaugural award back in 2015.
The Spurs superstar finished well ahead of Huddersfield Town's midfield general Aaron Mooy and Iranian winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who were ranked second and third respectively.
I’m very grateful to the fans, my teammates and everybody here at Tottenham
“I’m really thankful,” Son said in an exclusive interview with FourFourTwo in London. “Asia is a big continent with a lot of players and countries, so it is a great honour for myself and my country.
“I’m very grateful to the fans, my teammates and everybody here at Tottenham.”
Remarkably, Son was the only player to appear on every single ballot, with Mooy and reborn Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa making it onto all but one.
Overall Son has now finished first twice and second twice, runner-up on the 2017 list to UAE standout Omar Abdulrahman, who slipped to sixth this year.
Kagawa, who has played every minute for Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga this season, vaulted up to fourth overall, having finished 19th on last year’s list.
This year we expanded the voting panel significantly, with regional experts the calibre of Shanghai SIPG technical director Mads Davidsen, former Iran and Buriram United coach Afshin Ghotbi, Thai legend Therdsak Chaiman, Malaysian international Brendan Gan and Hougang United coach Philippe Aw all taking part.
We also asked experts from all four corners of Asia to take part, with votes coming in from Japan, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and many more.
The voting structure gave weighting to higher placed votes, with the total score divided by the number of voters to come up with a final figure. The lower the score, the higher the position.
Weighting was also given to the number of total votes, with an expert panel then discussing the final list to determine any close calls.
Son finished with an incredible average score of 1.13, streets ahead of Mooy (4.44) and Jahanbakhsh (4.23), with the Australian given second overall for appearing on three more lists than the Iranian.
Unsurprisingly, Asia’s five representatives for this year’s World Cup dominated the list, particularly Japan, who led the way with 16 players on the final 50.
Asia’s top-ranked nation Iran (9 players), South Korea (7), Australia (5) and Saudi Arabia (4), who will all be in Russia, round out the top five.