Best Footballer in Asia 2019: The reasons & numbers behind Son Heung-min’s triumph

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

For the fifth time in six years, Son Heung-min has been voted as Asia’s number one player after claiming the Best Footballer in Asia 2019 award.

The Best Footballer in Asia prize – created by Titan Sports as Asia’s answer to the Ballon d’Or – was first awarded in 2013 and has largely been dominated by the Tottenham ace.

After Keisuke Honda won the inaugural award, Son won in back-to-back years – the first of which while he was still playing in the Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen – before Shinji Okazaki proved impossible to resist in 2016 with his exploits with Leicester in their miraculous Premier League triumph.


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5 👑 in 6 years… CONGRATULATIONS to @spursofficial star @hm_son7 for being voted the Best Footballer in Asia 2019! #BFA #BFA2019

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Since then, however, normal service has resumed for Son and each successive triumph has seen him win by a larger percentage of votes, with his 2019 success coming from 258 points (31.6 per cent of the total on offer).

There was no shortage of legitimate challengers including new Liverpool signing Takumi Minamino, Qatar’s AFC Asian Cup 2019-winning star duo of Akram Afif and Almoez Ali, and Iran star Sardar Azmoun.

But once again, Son stood head and shoulders above the rest and here are the numbers and reasons behind his triumph.

No. PLAYER 1st (6 pts) 2nd (4 pts) 3rd (3 pts) 4th (2 pts) 5th (1 pt) Total
1 Son Heung-min 35 7 6 1 0 258
2 Akram Afif 7 9 9 4 1 114
3 Takumi Minamino 1 7 11 10 3 90
4 Almoez Ali 3 7 3 4 1 64
5 Sardar Azmoun 2 5 4 4 7 59
6 Bafetimbi Gomis 0 4 3 10 4 49
7 Wu Lei 0 3 3 2 4 29
8 Salem Al-Dawsari 1 1 2 4 2 26
9 Baghdad Bounedjah 1 1 0 1 3 15
10 Paulinho 0 2 1 1 1 14
11 Lee Kang-in 0 1 1 1 4 13
12 Theerathon Bunmathan 0 1 1 1 1 10
13 Eldor Shomurodov 0 0 2 1 2 10
14 Sebastian Giovinco 0 1 0 1 3 9
15 Omar Al-Soma 1 0 0 1 0 8
16 Yuya Osako 0 0 1 2 1 8
17 Nguyen Quang Hai 0 0 1 1 3 8
18 Mathew Ryan 0 1 0 0 3 7
19 Ali Mabkhout 0 0 2 0 1 7
20 Yuto Nagatomo 0 0 1 1 0 5
21 Mohanad Ali 0 1 0 0 0 4
22 Sunil Chhetri 0 0 0 0 4 4
23 Yasser Al-Shahrani 0 0 0 1 0 2
24 Adam Taggart 0 0 0 0 1 1
Arslanmyrat Amanow 0 0 0 0 1 1
Elkeson 0 0 0 0 1 1

Here’s what some of the judges had to say about Son’s outstanding 2019…

Jonathan White – Reporter of South China Morning Post (special guest judge): “The Spurs forward was key to their run to the Champions League final and a fourth place finish in the Premier League, especially in the periods where Harry Kane was absent. That Son ended the year even better than he started it, scoring probably his best goal ever with a solo run against Burnley on the day that he was handed the AFC Footballer of the Year award, makes you wonder what more is to come. Does he stay with Spurs to end their trophy doubt or is there a move to a bigger club and another step in the upward trajectory that his marked his every move?”

Truong Anh Ngoc – Vietnamese football writer and commentator (representing Vietnam): “Son Heung-min is my top choice as the driving force of Tottenham and the Korea Republic national team this year, he deserves another BFA award.”

Robert Lee – Reporter of China Times (representing Chinese Taipei): “Son Heung-min helped Tottenham enter the UEFA Champions League final for the first time. His unbelievable 70-metre-dribbling goal against Burnley showed his quality again.”

Wael Jabir (special guest judge): “Son Heung-min was head and shoulders above the rest. Despite a less-than-impressive AFC Asian Cup campaign, Son has been so influential for Spurs in both the Premier League and the UEFA Champions League that it is impossible to look beyond him for the number one spot.”

Mohamad Iraqi – Reporter of Al-ayyam (representing Palestine): “Well I see Son Heung-min as a super player – the best player in Asia by far – and one of the best wingers now in Europe. He is playing great football with his team Tottenham in the strongest league in the world and he has tremendous quality in scoring goals and creating for his team mates. He is quick, mobile can dribble in small and wide areas, can play and shoot on both feet – so he is the best player in Asia.”

Gabriel Tan – Football Editor of FOX Sports Asia (special guest judge): “It may be a bit boring for Son Heung-min to win the BFA prize once again but looking at all things fairly, there has simply been no better footballer in Asia than the Tottenham man. He continues to set the highest of standard for the continent but has also emerged as a world-class player in the past 12 months, especially when raising his level of play in Spurs’ run to the UEFA Champions League final when Harry Kane was injured.”

Of course, as the votes suggest, Akram, Minamino, and some others had their fair share of supporters too!

Rhysh Roshan Rai – Independent Football Presenter/Commentator (representing Singapore): “It was a special 2019 for club and country for Akram Afif. His individual quality helped Qatar to a historic first AFC Asian Cup title. Many did not regard them as favourites to win the competition but his performances went a long way towards helping Qatar to the title with his ten assists. Also helped Al Sadd to the Qatari League title and Super Cup. Played a part in Al Sadd’s run to the AFC Champions League semi-finals with 30 chances created for his side. Qatar League player of the season. AFC Player of the Year 2019 to round off a fantastic year on an individual and team level.”

Cedelf Tupas – Sportswriter for the Philippine Daily Inquirer (representing Philippines): “Akram Afif picked the best time to show his talent and quality last January when he spearheaded Qatar’s march to the AFC Asian Cup title in the UAE. The tournament happens only once every four years with a long and arduous qualifying process for some countries just to make the 24-team field. That makes Afif’s accomplishment – he led the tournament with 10 assists – even more incredible and difficult to match.”

Ung Chamroeun – Editor-in-Chief of ThmeyThmey (representing Cambodia): “2019 is the best year for Akram Afif, who did well for both the Qatar national team and Al Sadd. He is the key player who scored one goal and provided 10 assists to help Qatar to win AFC Asian Cup 2019. At Al Sadd, Afif won the Qatar Stars League and Qatari Super Cup and weighed in with 26 goals and 15 assists. He received also various individual awards: Top Assists, Team of the Year and Player of the Year. He deserves to win the 2019 Best Footballer in Asia.”

Bakyt Shukuraliev – Reporter of AKIpress (representing Kyrgyzstan): “Son is a fantastic player and this is not the first year he’s showing this high level of performance, which is why he has been receiving this award for several years. But Takumi proved to be great this season. His performance in the UEFA Champions League is fantastic. That fact that he was noticed by Liverpool and his transfer speaks about his high level. My vote is for Minamino.”