Before the Best Footballer in Asia 2017 is unveiled, FOX Sports Asia looks at how the likes of Paulinho and Maya Yoshida will be differentiated from Chanathip Songkrasin.
23 have made the list of players vying to be named as the Best Footballer in Asia in 2017. Seems like a lot? It really isn’t.
There could have been more. Many more.
Any award in football is subjective. The plan for the Best Footballer in Asia is to involve as many journalists from around Asia as possible to spread that subjectivity out to all corners of the continent. There are also experts called in from outside the region.
These writers were given the list and asked to select their top five. The list was a recommendation. All were free to make five choices from other names. The only criteria was that they had to be Asian or playing in Asia.
Even compiling a relatively long shortlist involves debate and compromise, with those involved having to give up some of their choices and accept others. There were quite a few drafts. There were also a number of patterns that emerged when choosing, debating, persuading and – sometimes – accepting.
But with the votes submitted and being tallied, and with the Best Footballer in Asia 2017 on the brink of being named, here is how the best of the best will be selected.
1) International success outweighs domestic
— AFC Champions League (@TheAFCCL) November 25, 2017
Performances in Asian competitions, whether for club or country, will usually outweigh those performing at a similar level in domestic leagues. It is in the continental and world competitions where we can see and judge the respective merits of players from different countries in action against each other.
Those who star on the domestic stage only and are rarely seen elsewhere will really need a series of superb displays as a compelling reason for them to be rated as having performed better. Many of the numerous leagues around Asia have a number of players matching this description. Those who transcend their local leagues have a better chance.
Fantastic performances at home help but those who star in the AFC Champions League, the AFC Cup, and in qualification for the World Cup or Asian Cup, will expectedly receive more attention.
Take Urawa Reds Diamonds, for example. A team that did not really challenge for top honours in the J1 League in the end. Yet, the Asian champions have has four players on the list. This quartet was instrumental in the Reds winning the biggest prize in Asian club football. There are dozens of domestic leagues in Asia, but there are only two continental club competitions.
2) Glory makes a difference
89' GOAL!!! 1-0 @redsofficial! (2-1 agg.)
— FOX Sports LIVE! (@FSAsiaLive) November 25, 2017
Those who play a significant role in helping their team win finals and secure internationals trophies, along the way gaining plaudits and headlines, will inevitably find themselves on the list more often than not.
Scoring a hat-trick may be the same process, but the stage and setting where these three goals arrive are important. Do it in a league game and you will gain plenty of praise, do it in the AFC Champions League final and you make headlines around the world. Do it in a World Cup final? Well, achieving football immortality is about right.
Football is about glory and so is this Best Footballer in Asia 2017 prize. Help your club or country grab some international glory and you have a great chance of making the list of 23.
3) Playing in the top leagues of Europe helps
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) December 26, 2017
Of course, there are those who play overseas. There are a number of those on the 2017 list and they prove to be popular. In fact, all four awards till now have gone to European-based players: Keisuke Honda, Son Heung-min (twice) and Shinji Okazaki.
These players are obviously unable to play in Asian club competitions, but for those in the best leagues in the world, they are able to do a huge service for the reputation of Asian football by succeeding in the English Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga, Ligue 1, Serie A… the list goes on.
Those that truly hit the heights for the big clubs in the big leagues – as well as the UEFA Champions League, a competition featuring most of the best players in the world – easily make the list. Apart from the World Cup, performing well in the top tiers of England, Germany, Italy and Spain will lift a player’s reputation around the world. The pull of Europe will almost automatically attract much of Asia’s top talent.
4) Shine for the national team
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This criteria is more influential in years that contain the Asian Cup and the World Cup, which will surely be influential in next year’s list. No doubt, those who perform well for their national team in the big moments will also catch the eye.
The good folks at Titan Sports – the award’s organisers – also include foreign players in Asia who have come to the East and made a significant impact. As yet, none have won but those who shine in the AFC Champions League come quite close. Elkeson and Dario Conca came second and third in 2013 as Guangzhou Evergrande became continental champions. Ricardo Goulart, with the same club, took third place two years later.
Perhaps this year will be different.