Asia 50, 2018: A host of European-based superstars round out our Top 10
4. Shinji Kagawa
Given that he retains his boyish looks it’s hard to believe that Kagawa is now a year shy of his 30s, which means he should be right in his peak as a footballer - and his efforts over the past 12 months add weight to that belief.
At club level he started the new season with a bang with two goals in his first five matches and in late September he became the greatest Japanese goalscorer in Bundesliga history – no mean feat given the healthy number of his countrymen who have shone in Germany.
Add to that a further four goals between December and January and there’s no question the attacking midfielder is a key cog in the continued success of Dortmund in his second spell at the club.
Although he’s been in and out of the national team and remains something of a polarising figure in Japan - flipping between being the face of the team in a host of advertisements and not always living up to his star billing in the blue shirt – he seems a lock to make the squad for Russia and he has as good a chance as any other of being the key man for the national side this summer. – Scott McIntyre
3. Alireza Jahanbakhsh
The winger has been one of the best players in the Netherlands this season, an exciting match-winner who AZ Alkmaar fans have taken to their hearts.
The 24-year-old is near the top of the goalscoring charts and has recorded plenty of assists too. In general, he has been excellent.
The Dutch league does not command the profile that it once did, but he is also a star of the Iranian national team and the right-sided attacker will get a chance at the World Cup to show everyone else what the Netherlands has been seeing for some time. – John Duerden