Who are Southeast Asia's best young footballers?

Ahead of the 2016 AFC Under-23 Championship, to be held in Qatar in January, FourFourTwo has compiled a list of the 23 best young talents in Southeast Asia. Who made the cut? Which country had the most entries? How many are already nicknamed 'Messi'? In no particular order, read on to find out...

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Words: Thanamahamongkhol Kritikorn, Tio Utomo, Vijhay Vick & Zee Ko

Chanathip Songkrasin

Age: 22

Nationality: Thailand

Position: Attacking midfielder

Club: BEC Tero Sasana

Highest level reached: National team

Senior international caps: 21

Known as 'Messi Jay', Chanatip Songkrasin is not only the best youngster in Thailand, but he has proven in recent years to be one of the best footballers in the entire Southeast Asian region.

His interest in the sport began when his father, Kongpob Songkrasin, had the bold ambition of raising 'Jay' to play in the same vein as Diego Maradona – his favourite player. Consistently accused of being too small, dating back to his childhood years, the 158cm Chanatip has since demonstrated time and again that small players can have a major impact on the game.

Over the past five years, he has snared a swag of trophies, both domestic and international, starting with the 2013 SEA Games and continuing through to the 2014 Thai League Cup with BEC Tero Sasana, the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup and this year’s SEA Games in Singapore.

In August he was named player of the year in the South East Asian region by the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF), but he insisted to FourFourTwo at the time that he still needed to improve to achieve his goals.

“I have to be better than this and the most important thing is that I have to lead Thailand to the final stage of the World Cup,” the playmaker said. “Once I’ve done that then everyone can truly call me the best player.

“Apart from the national team ambitions, another thing I want to achieve is to play in Japan’s J-League. Many players from ASEAN want to go to Europe, but I believe the best move is to start in the best football competitions in Asia.” - TK