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10 best Asian footballers currently

Son Heung-min is carrying the Asian flag aloft in the Premier League.
Son Heung-min is carrying the Asian flag aloft in the Premier League.
FEATURED COLUMNIST
Modified 31 Jan 2021
Top 5 / Top 10

Despite significant progress in recent years, Asian football continues to be a fair way behind their European counterparts at the moment.

However, whether in Europe or in their own homelands, many Asian footballers show the progress made by the continent in recent years.

There has also been progress made in the sense that the best players from the continent don't just come from the traditional hotbeds such as Japan, South Korea, and Iran.

That was exemplified during the AFC Asian Cup in 2019, which was won by Qatar, who emerged as champions for the first time in their history.

The hosts of the 2022 FIFA World Cup have had plans in place to improve their football, and those are clearly paying off for the moment.

On that note, we take a look at the 10 best footballers from Asia at the moment.

Note: Even though Australia forms part of the Asian Football Confederation, we have not included Australian players in this list.


#10 Alireza Jahanbakhsh

Alireza Jahanbakhsh fights to win a header.
Alireza Jahanbakhsh fights to win a header.
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The Brighton & Hove Albion winger is currently the only Iranian playing in the Premier League. Even though Jahanbaksh hasn't particularly set the league alight with his performances so far, he remains a reference point for players across the continent still harboring intentions of playing at that level.

Jahanbakhsh joined Brighton a couple of years ago now and, unfortunately, hasn't yet nailed down a spot for himself.

However, he already has written for himself a Premier League moment for the ages. Last season, Jahanbakhsh scored a bicycle kick to earn Brighton a point in a match against Chelsea.

Jahanbakhsh has played his football in Europe since 2013, spending five years in the Netherlands before making the move to Brighton.

He joined NEC Nijmegen in 2013 and spent two seasons there before impressing during a three-year stint at AZ Alkmaar.


#9 Akram Afif

Akram Afif.
Akram Afif.

Qatar's Akram Afif was named the AFC Player of the Year for 2019 in a year when he played a pivotal role in the Gulf nation's triumph at the AFC Asian Cup.

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In that tournament, held in the UAE in early 2019, Afif provided 10 assists in seven appearances, as Qatar motored to the title by eventually beating Japan in the final. They had even beaten Son Heung-min's South Korea in the semifinal of that tournament.

Afif, who plays his club football for Al-Sadd in the Qatar Stars League, has gone from strength to strength since.

Earlier in his career, Afif has also spent time with La Liga side Villareal, but things didn't quite work out as he would had expected.

He continues to be a pivotal member of the Qatari national team and will be one of the players to watch out for when the FIFA World Cup comes to Qatar in 2022.


#8 Hassan Al-Haydos

Hassan Al-Haydos in action during the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup.
Hassan Al-Haydos in action during the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup.

Al-Haydos will forever be remembered in Qatari football's history as the captain who lifted the country's first-ever Asian Cup title.

Next year, he will make further history by becoming the first-ever captain to lead Qatar at the World Cup.

Like Afif, Al-Haydos also plays for Al-Sadd, coached by Spanish legend Xavi Hernandez. The 30-year-old has been a one-club man so far, after having made his debut for Al-Sadd in 2007.

He has also made 135 appearances for the Qatari national team. Currently, Qatar are top of their group in the joint FIFA World Cup-AFC Asian Cup qualification campaign.

Even as defending champions, they have to qualify for the next tournament in China, and at the moment, are well placed to enter that competition. Qatar are top of a group that also includes Oman, India, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh.

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Published 31 Jan 2021, 14:53 IST
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