Tottenham and Korea Republic star Son Heung-min is the Best Footballer in Asia for 2017, as named by the panel recruited by award organisers Titan Sports.
It is his third win in five years and exemplifies how the South Korean really is something special, with three out of five bordering on domination.
The Tottenham forward has had an excellent year in the English Premier League – one of the top leagues in the world – and the UEFA Champions League, the best club competition around where the highest standards are reached. Furthermore, he helped Korea Republic qualify for a 9th successive World Cup.
Son ended the 2016-17 English season by helping Spurs to a fine second-place finish behind Chelsea, with 14 leagues goals – and 21 in all competition – to his name.
This was in stark contrast to the way he started the campaign as there were doubts as to whether he would be sold back to Germany. He had shown flashes of class in first campaign but had failed to convince fully.
By May 2017, those questions marks had disappeared. This season too, he has been one of the best performers in England and Europe. It is not just the goals that he has scored but the quality of the strikes.
Son’s weakness as a forward is that he sometimes misses easy chances when he has time to think. But when it comes to instinct, he has few peers. Give him half a second on the edge of the area and the 25 year-old is devastating. Just look at his goal against Crystal Palace in November. Or, more recently, Thursday’s evening’s 30-yard stunner to earn a 1-1 draw against West Ham.
I filmed the Heung Min Son goal.
And him shooshing the West Ham fans is the best bit. pic.twitter.com/dAaqYGrmob
— for Jonghyun ⚪️ (@ZionPark_) January 4, 2018
Tottenham were struggling against their London rivals and just could not get the breakthrough. The ball fell to Son on the edge of the area and in an instant he had curled the ball into far corner. All 65,000 fans present knew what was going to happen. Be it his displays in the Premier League, helping Spurs to top spot in a Champions League group containing Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, or leading South Korea to Russia 2018, Son has had a fine year.
He is the most famous and recognisable Asian player in the world at the moment. That does not mean he is undoubtedly the best but, in terms of performances in 2017, Son has gone from strength to strength and it did not harm his chances that he has been in excellent form in the weeks leading up to the vote. Timing plays a part too.
Omar Khribin came second and the Syrian striker can look back on a year in which he became a major figure in Asian football. Nobody will ever know how different it could have been had Syria gone to the World Cup and had Al Hilal won the AFC Champions League. The striker almost took both teams to global and continental glory.
— FOX Sports Asia (@FOXSportsAsia) November 29, 2017
He helped Syria to third place in Group A in the final round of Asian qualification for Russia 2018, netting an impressive 17 goals throughout the course of the campaign.
But, with a World Cup spot tantalisingly within their reach, the Syrians were just unable to see of an Australia side inspired by veteran talisman Tim Cahill.
It was the same in the final of the Champions League. Khribin scored for Al Hilal in the first leg against Urawa Reds that ended 1-1 but couldn’t get the all-important second goal and it ended 1-0 to the Japanese team in Saitama on November 26.
For Khribin, both in terms of glory with club and country as well as winning the Best Footballer in Asia 2017, it was a case of so near yet so far. Yet, he can look back on his year with much pride.
Rafael Silva took third. There is usually a foreign player that makes the top three and the Brazilian did so much to help Urawa win the AFC Champions League. His nine goals were impressive enough, but especially more so when many were crucial ones in the knockout round.
89′ GOAL!!! 1-0 @redsofficial! (2-1 agg.)
— FOX Sports LIVE! (@FSAsiaLive) November 25, 2017
His strike made the difference in the quarter-final win over Kawasaki Frontale, his scored the only goal of the semi-final second leg and then both in the two-legged final as the Japanese team defeated Al Hilal 2-1 on aggregate.
Sardar Azmoun of Iran narrowly finished behind Silva in fourth place, while Paulinho rounded off the top five.
Best Footballer in Asia 2017 Final Rankings
1) Son Heung-min – 157 points
2) Omar Khribin – 127 points
3) Rafael Silva – 57 points
4) Sardar Azmoun – 51 points
5) Paulinho – 44 points
6) Aaron Mooy – 33 points
7) Omar Abdulrahman – 31 points
8) Omar Al-Soma – 25 points
9) Yuki Abe – 23 points
10) Wu Lei – 19 points
11) Reza Ghoochannejhad – 16 points
12) Mehdi Taremi – 13 points
13) Carlos Eduardo – 11 points
14) Shusaku Nishikawa – 10 points
15) Alireza Jahanbakhsh – 6 points
15) Chanathip Songkrasin – 6 points
15) Nawaf Al-Abed – 6 points
15) Yuto Nagatomo – 6 points
19) Tomi Juric – 5 points
19) Tomoaki Makino – 5 points
21) Kengo Nakamura – 4 points
21) Manuchekhr Dzhalilov – 4 points
21) Maya Yoshida – 4 points
24) Kosuke Nakamura – 3 points
25) Mathew Leckie – 2 points
25) Sunil Chhetri – 2 points
27) Osama Hawsawi – 1 point
27) Yaseer Al-Shahrani – 1 point