Son Heung-min, the Best Footballer in Asia 2018

John Duerden John Duerden

Tottenham and Korea Republic star Son Heung-min has named the Best Footballer in Asia 2018, the fourth time he has won the prestigious award.

You don’t have to be a fan of Asian football to enjoy one of the best football memories of 2018.

It was June 27 in the beautiful Russian city of Kazan and fans had flocked to see world champions Germany take on South Korea and all expected the Europeans to win and seal their place in the knockout stage.

Even Korea’s coach Shin Tae-yong gave his team a one per cent chance of victory. After two defeats in the opening two games, few thought the Taegeuk Warriors would return to Seoul with anything more than zero points.

The game ended with the unforgettable sight of Son Heung-min racing into the entirely empty German half in the sixth minute of added time. The Tottenham  forward then rolled the ball into the net from close range. The South Korean bench erupted as it made the scoreline 2-0 and secured one of the greatest-ever results from an Asian team at the FIFA World Cup.

It was fitting that Son was the man to send the champions back to Berlin. Here was the highest-profile and best Asian player shining on the world stage and it was moments like these that helped the 26 year-old win the prize of “Best Footballer in Asia” in 2018, the fourth time that he has collected the award.

There is no doubt that Son is the biggest name in Asia and there is plenty of reasons why that is as we have seen once again this year.

The Chuncheon-born native was one of the continent’s best performers at the World Cup in what was a very difficult group that also contained Sweden and Mexico. He did his best to carry his team to the knockout stage with two goals and plenty more besides.

Not long had he returned to London and Son was then jetting out to Jakarta for the Asian Games. Such is his star power that his mere presence at the Under-23 football tournament – that allowed for three overage players – gave the 2018 edition far more international exposure than it had ever had before.

The reason that Son headed to Indonesia in the first place was that a gold medal gives military exemption, a 21-month tour of duty that was getting closer and closer.

 

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What a Performance 🙊 you guys were brilliant again💙Merry Christmas 🎁🎄 ⚽⚽#COYS

A post shared by Son HeungMin(손흥민)🇰🇷 (@hm_son7) on

The prospect of the star cutting short his English Premier League adventure to perform his national duty was a very real one. It also meant that there was plenty of pressure on his shoulders. It felt like the whole world was watching to see if Son could do it.

And did it he did. Korea went all the way to the final and then defeated rivals Japan to take gold. Striker Hwang Ui-jo scored no less than nine times but Son was the fulcrum of the attack.

Returning home to resume his European season, Son took a little time to get back into his club groove after a few months of jetting around the world: to Russia, to the United States on pre-season, to Indonesia and then back to Korea on a number of occasions. Few players have racked up as many air miles.

Son ended the year as one of the best performers in the world’s most popular league, winning the goal of the month in November with a sumptuous strike against Chelsea. The year ended in England and also the UEFA Champions League as is started for the Korean: with Son playing well and simply reinforcing his status as a very, very good player.

He has long been a favourite of Spurs fans and respected by Premier League supporters but in 2018 Son showed that he can shine on the biggest stage of all too.

Son Heung-min will be a worthy winner of ‘The Best Footballer of Asia’ prize for a fourth time and the challenge for the rest of the continent is to stop the South Korea winning a fifth in 2019.

BEST FOOTBALLER IN ASIA 2018 – Final rankings
1. Son Heung-min (Korea Republic/Tottenham Hotspur)(206)
2. Makoto Hasebe (Japan/Eintracht Frankfurt)(64) 
3. Alireza Beiranvand  (Iran/Persepolis)(50)
4. Yuma Suzuki (Japan/Kashima Antlers)(46)
5. Baghdad Bounedjah (Algeria/Al Saad) (31)
6. Wu Lei  (China/Shanghai SIPG)(28)
7. Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Iran/AZ Alkmaar-Brighton & Hove Albion)(28)
8. Neil Etheridge (Philippines/Cardiff City)(26)
9. Takashi Inui  (Japan/Eibar – Real Betis)(26)
10. Abdelkarim Hassan (Qatar/Al-Saad)(24)
11. Yuya Osako (Japan/FC Koln- Werder Bremen) (20)
12. Aaron Mooy (Australia/Huddersfield) (19)
13 Mathew Ryan (Australia/Brighton & Hove Albion F.C.)(16)
14. Salmam Al Faraj (Saudi Arabia/Al Hilal) (15)
15. Qguyen Quang Hai (Vietnam/Ha Noi) (13)
16. Akfram Afif (Qatar/Al Saad)(12)
17. Kwoun Tae-Sae (Korea Republic/Kashima Antlers) (11)
18. Hwang Ui-jo (Korea Republic/Gamba Osaka) (9)
19. Marcus Berg (Sweden/Al Ain) (9)
20. Gen Shoji (Japan/Kashima Antlers) (8)
21. Sunil Chheteri (India/Bengaluru) (7)
21. Jo Hyeon-woo (Korea Republic/Daegu) (7)
23. Valery Kichin (Kyrgyzstan/Yenisey Krasnoyarsk)(4)
24. Caio (Brazil/Al Ain) (3)
24. Chanatip Songkrasin (Thailand/Consadole Sapporro)(3)
24. Omar Khribin (Syria/Al Hilal) (3)
24. Paulinho (Brazil/Barcelona – Guangzhou Evergrande) (3)
28. Odil Ahmedov (Uzbekistan/Shanghai SIPG)(2)
28. Sardar Azmoun (Iran/Rubin Kazan)(2)
28. Shinji Kawaga (Japan/Borussia Dortmund) (2)
28. Kengo Nakaruma (Japan/Kawasaki Frontales) (2)
32. Serginho (Brazil/Kashima Antlers)(2)
33. Altymyrat Annadurdyyev (Turkmenistan/Altyn Asyr)(1)
33. Andres Iniesta (Spain/Barcelona – Kobe Vissels) (1)
33. Daigo Nishi (Japan/Kashima Antlers) (1)

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