Every year the Best Footballer in Asia is awarded to a player with the highest total score from 51 judges comprising of 37 AFC representatives and 14 independent Asian football experts. The Best Footballer in Asia 2018 was awarded to Son Heung-min, but what about 2019 award?
Which Asian players are among the AFC Asian Cup 2019 best players? Some of them are for sure among the best Asian soccer players in 2018, and who knows? Maybe one day, they even rank among the top Asian football players ever.
As already mentioned, some of the best Asian soccer players in 2018 are also on the list of AFC Asian Cup 2019 best players. We can even consider them as today’s top 10 Asian football players. But who are they really? Let’s find out together!
Following is the list of Best Asian Football Players in 2019. If you always asked yourself who is today’s best footballer in Asia, the following list is your answer.
Number one on the list of Top 10 Asian Football Players; Also the winner of the Best Footballer in Asia 2018 with 206 points, far ahead of second-positioned Makoto Hasebe with 64 points, Son Heung-min sits on the first place again when it comes to the best Asian football players in 2019, this time however, not with a huge deficit, as Akram Afif, occupies the second place with 114 points.
Winning with 258 points this time, Son Heung-min is the only player in Asia to have won the Best Footballer in Asia Award more than 4 times since 2013, 3 of which have been consecutive, namely from 2017 to 2019.
Son Heung-min has joined the Premier League club, Tottenham Hotspur, on a five-year contract since 2015 for €30 million, and is the first Asian player in the Premier League to have scored more than 50 goals in the competition history.
Among the best Asian football players in 2019, Akram Afif is a professional Qatari football player who plays as a forward for Al Sadd on a loan from Villarreal. As mentioned above, Afif, with the 114 points he has received from AFC judges and Asian football experts, is the second best Asian footballer in 2019 after Son Heung-min.
Afif also played for the LaLiga side, Sporting Gijón, on a loan contract in 2016-17 season. However, on 8 May 2016, Afif joined Villarreal, this time on a permanent deal and by doing so became the first Qatari player to have signed with a LaLiga side in LaLiga history.
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With a total 90 points, Minamino is the third best footballer in Asia in 2019. In 2012, when he actually started his club career with J-League club, Cerezo Osaka, he was awarded J-League Rookie of the Year which is an award by J-League for the most outstanding rookie of the year.
On January 1, 2020, Minamino joined the Premier League leaders, Liverpool, and since then he has appeared 3 times for them. Minamino also featured in the Japanese national team that reached the final of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.
Almoez Ali Zainalabiddin Abdullah, shortly referred to as Almoez Ali, is a Qatari professional footballer who also holds the record of the most goals scored in an AFC Asian Cup with the 9 goals he netted in the 2019 edition of the competition.
With 64 points, Almoez Ali is the fourth best Asian footballer in 2019; he also tops the AFC Asian Cup 2019 top scorers list with 9 goals to his name.
Unlike the other 3 aforementioned players, Almoez Ali has not played in a European professional league as yet. In fact, he has played in the Spanish third-tier league, Segunda División B, and also scored the only goal that brought his side, Cultural Leonesa, over Arandina, becoming the first Qatari footballer ever to score in a Spanish league.
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Being Iran’s fifth all-time highest goalscorer with 33 goals so far, Azmoun is also the second most expensive Iranian player currently playing for the Russian club, Zenit St. Petersburg, for a €12m transfer fee.
Called the Iranian Messi mainly by British media, Azmoun is most famous for his aerial ability, creativity, and bursts of acceleration. He is also the second AFC Asian Cup 2019 top scorer after Almoez Ali with 4 goals.
Although a supporter of Real Madrid, Azmoun has never played in a Spanish team, instead, throughout his career, he has only featured for top-tier Russian clubs, and the Iranian Pro League club, Sepahan.
With four goals to his name in the UEFA Champions League, Azmoun holds the record of most goals scored in the competition by Iranian players.
Shanghai SIPG all-time top scorer with 169 goals, Wu Lei is also the second all-time top scorer in Chinese Super League with 102 goals. Lei is among the best Asian footballers who play in the Spanish top-tier league, LaLiga. He actually plays in the left-winger post for RCD Espanyol.
Wu Lei is the first Chinese player to have scored against LaLiga giants, Barcelona: In a match against Barcelona on January 4, 2020, Lei scored a late equaliser for his side, preventing them from losing and leaving Barca in dismay.
The goal was heavily praised by Chinese media and fans and even was called ‘a new chapter’ in Chinese football.
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Another Asian footballer to have played for a LaLiga club, namely Villareal, though not much and just as a substitute in a match against Real Madrid where Villareal came from behind to draw the match 2-2, in fact with Dawsari’s help.
Dawsari also plays for Saudi Arabia national team and was named in Saudi Arabia’s first-team squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
With Al-Hilal, Salem al-Dawsari has won two consecutive Saudi Professional League titles, namely in 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons. Other trophies he has won with Al-Hilal are King’s Cup (2 times), Crown Prince Cup (3 times), Saudi Supe Cup (2 times) and AFC Champions League (1 time in 2019).
Another Asian footballer to be playing for a LaLiga side, namely Valencia CF, Lee Kang-in is honoured that despite his young age he has won Copa del Rey 2018-19 with the LaLiga side.
Coming to the pitch as a late substitute in a Champions League tie against Chelsea where Valencia beat the Premier League side 1-0, Kang-in is the youngest Korean player ever to have made his debut in the competition – at the age of 18 years and six months.
Kang-in is the fifth Korean player to play in LaLiga and the youngest Asian league debutant for Valencia. One interesting fact to know about Kang-in is that he has started his club career with Valencia, meaning that he has played neither for Korean clubs nor any other Asian clubs. No wonder if you know that the Japanese midfielder is actually a product of Valencia CF's academy.
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Having won 20 domestic trophies with Buriram United including 4 Thai Premier League and 4 Thai FA Cup titles, Theerathon Bunmathan is another professional Asian footballer who has not yet made a debut for a European club.
Currently on a loan to J-League side, Bunmathan has spent most of his career with the Thai side, Buriram United, namely from 2010 to 2016.
Before joining the J-league side, Yokohama F. Marinos, the Thai left-back played for another Thai club, Muangthong United for two seasons, winning five other titles with the club. Bunmathan was named the Thai Premier League Player of the Year in 2013 and also in the AFC Champions League Dream Team in the same year.
Having made 42 appearances for the Uzbekistan national team with 19 goals, Eldor Shomurodov is an Uzbek striker currently playing for the Russian side, FC Rostov. Shomurodov was named the Uzbekistan Player of the Year in 2019 and when with the Uzbek side, Bunyodkor, won Uzbekistan Super League in 2016.
With 4 goals to his name, Eldor Shomurodov occupies the fifth place in the list of AFC Asian Cup 2019 top scorers, meaning that he could indeed be among the AFC Asian Cup 2019 best players, too.
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A Professional Japanese forward who has spent most of his career in Bundesliga, Yuya Osako sits on the fourth place in the list of AFC Asian Cup 2019 top scorers with 4 goals. Osako has appeared 45 times for the Japanese national team from 2013 to 2019, scoring 15 goals.
With the second goal Osako scored against Columbia in World Cup 2018 that led to his side’s 2-1 victory, Japan became the first Asian team to beat a South American team in World Cup history.
As already mentioned, the Japanese forward has spent most of his career in the German top-tier league, Bundesliga, playing for 1860 Munich, FC Köln, and Werder Bremen, scoring 68 league goals in total for the German sides from 2009 to now.
Having scored 21 goals in his 45 appearances for Iran’s national team, Taremi has actually scored almost one goal in every two appearance he has had for the team which he’s indeed among the keenest and top-scoring forwards Iran has ever had.
The 27-year-old striker and winger plays currently in the Portuguese top-tier league, Primeira Liga, having scored 8 goals in his 20 appearances for Rio Ave, again almost one goal in every two appearances.
However, most of Taremi’s club career - from 2010 to 2019 - has been spent in Asia, namely in the top Iranian clubs and the Qatari club Al-Gharafa. Taremi also became the Iranian Footballer of the Year in 2016 and 2017 and top scorer in 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons of Persian Gulf Pro League.
The Iranian forward occupies the 7th place in the list of AFC Asian Cup 2019 top scorers with 3 goals. He’s indeed among the best Asian football players in 2019.
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Although born in Kirgizstan, Vitalij Lux has spent most of his life in Germany, and no wonder that he has been recruited by German clubs some of them are SpVgg Unterhaching, Nurnburg II, and Illertissen.
From the start of his club career in Germany, namely in 2012, Lux has scored 50 goals in his 182 appearances for German clubs only in domestic leagues.
In terms of international appearances, the 31-year-old forward has had 30 appearances for the Kirgizstan national team from 2015 to 2019, scoring 8 goals for them. In the list of AFC Asian Cup 2019 top scorers, Vitalij Lux sits on the 6th place with 3 goals.
Another Asian footballer on the list of the Best Asian Football Players in 2019, Ali Ahmed Mabkhout Mohsen Omaran Alhajeri, simply known as Ali Mabkhout, is an Emirati footballer who has spent all his club career at Al-Jazira FC, scoring 162 goals in his 255 appearances for the club from 2009 to 2020.
The start of Mabkhout’s international carrer coincides with the start of his club career – both in 2009, but the number of goals he has scored in the international arena is higher.
Mabkhout has scored 60 goals in his 83 appearances for his country’s national team, nearly 1.5 goal in each appearance. With Al-Jazira, the 29-year-old forward has won 2 UAE Pro-League titles, 1 Etisalat Emirates Cup, and 2 UAE President's Cups. Mabkhout is the third of AFC Asian Cup 2019 top scorer with 4 goals.
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Aged 33, Yuto Nagatomo has always played in top-tier leagues no matter in what country. In fact, he has spent most of his club career with Serie A club, Inter Milan, namely from 2010 to 2018, and is one of 12 Japanese players to have played for the club from 2002 on.
However, before that, the Japanese full-back was in J.League Division 1, serving FC Tokyo from 2007 to 2010 and after that, he has played for the Turkish side, Galatasaray, namely from 2018 up until now.
In the international arena, Nagatomo has appeared 122 times for Japan’s national team from 2008 to 2019. He was also a member of Japan’s national team who ended up runners-up in the 2011 edition of AFC Asian Cup.
Nagatomo was also named Asian International Footballer of the Year in 2013. So, he could surely be on the list of Best Asian Football Players in 2019.
Nicknamed Captain Fantastic, Sunil Chhetri is one of the most successful Indian footballers of all time and maybe the most successful of them all. Maybe his biggest achievement is that he is the second highest goalscorer in international matches after Cristiano Ronaldo.
And not only this, the 35-year-old forward has also had the most appearances for the Indian national team and scored the most number of goals for the team with 72 goals in 115 appearances, more than 1.5 goal in each appearance.
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Chhetri has served 10 club teams in major Indian leagues, namely I-League and Indian Super League, and also in MLS and Ligo Pro of Portugal. During his club career starting from 2008, Chhetri has scored a total 140 goals in 260 appearances which translates to more than one goal in every two appearances.
The Indian footballer is also on the list of AFC Asian Cup 2019 top scorers with 2 goals one of which has been netted from the Penalty Spot.
Nicknamed Al Aqqid In Syria after a Syrian hero known for his courage and benevolence, Omar Jehad al-Somah is among the best strikers in Asia with 151 goals already scored for Al Ahli in his 166 appearances for the club.
Although the talented Syrian striker has played for no other club other than Al Ahli, it doesn’t mean his goalscoring instinct was wholly overlooked.
In fact in a month-long trial in July 2012, Al-Somah appeared for the second-tier English club, Nottingham Forest, in three matches and scored once for them, impressing the club manager to the extent that he just wanted to sign the Syrian talent on a more permanent contract, but luck was not with Al-Somah as he couldn’t get a work permit in England and as a result was not able to serve Forest.
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Another footballer among the best Asian football players in 2019, Mohanad Ali Kadhim Al-Shammari, simply known as Mimi, is an Iraqi forward currently playing for the top-tier Portuguese club, Portimonense. Starting to play football at the age of 6, Ali became the top scorer at two local Iraqi tournaments when under 14.
Ali’s first appearance for the Iraqi national team was in a friendly against United Arab Emirates in December 2017. However, it was in AFC Asian Cup 2019 that his great performance and form attracted the attention of several European clubs such as Juventus, Cagliari, Czech club Slavia Prague and Danish club Midtjylland.
In his 28 appearances for the Iraqi national team, Ali has scored 14 goals which translates to one goal in every two matches.
Considered as one of the best footballers of his generation in Vietnam, Quang Hải is a Vietnamese midfielder who was also named as one of the 15 best footballers in Asia in 2018. However in 2019, his rank lowered to 17th position among the top 24 Asian players.
Quang Hải actually became popular in 2018 AFC U-23 Championship during which he scored 5 goals for Vietnam’s U23 national team. His goal against Uzbekistan in the final was voted the best goal of the tournament.
Quang Hải continued to gain more reputation in 2019 AFC Asian Cup where he played a key role in Vietnam’s victories in the tournament. He was also nominated for the ten best U-21 players in the tournament.
Playing as a defender for the top-tier Saudi Arabian club, Al-Hilal, Al-Shahrani actually joined the club in 2012 and since then has won five Asian titles including two Saudi Professional League titles, two Kings Cups and two Saudi Super Cups.
One interesting fact about Al-Shahrani is that he was featured alongside Lionel Messi, on the official cover of the Middle East version of FIFA 16 video game. Al-Shahrani is indeed on the list of Best Asian Football Players in 2019, though almost at the bottom with only 2 points.
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