Maybe next year? The rising stars who almost made FFT’s Asia 50
It is not easy to win a place on FFT’s Asia 50 list, as these players found out, narrowly falling short in 2016.
Here FourFourTwo reveals the shortlisted candidates who failed to garner the votes required to make the cut as our top 50 Asian players, but could well be in the reckoning in 12 months' time.
Hariss Harun (Singapore)
Hariss (pictured above) hardly makes the headlines with his understated style of play but he is an indispensable part of JDT.
One of the reasons for captain Safiq Rahim’s outstanding form is that he has a dependable midfield partner in Harris to snuff out the danger and provide the ammunition.
One match in 2015 that truly showcased the 25-year-old’s maturity was Singapore’s heroic 0-0 draw with Japan in Saitama, where he put up a captain’s display to keep the likes of Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa and Shinji Okazaki at bay.
Should he keep up his unsung performances, there is every chance that he can make the top 50 next year.
Izwan Mahbud (Singapore)
Izwan Mahbud was the standout Singaporean in 2015 after a series of impressive displays for club and country.
Who can forget that 18-save feat when Singapore faced up to mighty Japan in Saitama last June and walked away with a 0-0 draw?
It was these kinds of performances that drew him some attention in this year’s Asia 50 and he ultimately only narrowly missed out on a spot on the final list.
The 25-year-old also fell short of a move overseas after an unsuccessful trial with Matsumoto Yamaga that could have seen him become the first Singaporean to play in the J-League.
So far year 2016 has been a tough year for Izwan back in the S.League with Tampines Rovers, but the talented young shotstopper should have the resilience to see through this spell.
Safiq Rahim (Malaysia)
Safiq was one of those really unlucky not to make it into the final 50. Safiq was integral to Johor Darul Ta'zim’s (JDT) astounding year in 2015 as he led them to an unprecedented Malaysia Super League (MSL) and AFC Cup double.
The 28-year-old has since carried where he left off, starting the year in free-scoring form. Already, he has eight goals to his name to help his side stay on course for a repeat of last season’s success.
We can expect more to come from the classy midfield playmaker and possibly see his name on our list next year.
Amri Yahyah (Malaysia)
Is this man really 35 years of age? While other seasoned Malaysian forwards like Norshahrul Idlan Talaha and club team-mate Safee Sali have fallen wayward in the last couple of years, Amri on the other hand seems to get better in his advancing years.
Instead of being a bit-part player, he has often been a starter for JDT under coach Mario Gomez. The veteran has also shown a penchant for scoring on the big stage, as can be seen with this stunner against Qadsia SC in last year’s AFC Cup semi-finals.
A pity that it did not go down in official records, with the match voided after the Kuwaiti side was expelled from the competition.
Zesh Rehman (Pakistan)
Players usually revert to a withdrawn role as they begin to wind down their career. However Zesh took the opposite route of shifting from defence to central midfield and is excelling in his newfound position.
The 32-year-old Pakistan captain got amongst the goals and managed to help his club Pahang FA finish just two points behind champions JDT in the MSL last season.
This year has been tougher year for him though, with the Tok Gajah languishing at the wrong end of the table after losing a number of key players in the off-season.
The former Fulham player will need to use his experience to help the club get back to where they were before.