With the Asian football season coming to a close, the Asian Football Confederation revealed their nominees for the AFC Annual Awards Oman 2018. FOX Sports Asia profiles the three candidates shortlisted for the award:
#1 Kento Misao (Kashima Antlers)
Misao played an important role in the Antlers’ triumph. He had a tackle success rate of 70.8 percent over the course of the tournament, and also provided the key assist in the first leg of the final.
Misao joined the Antlers in 2016 from Tokyo Verdy where he honed his game, converting himself into a dynamic central midfielder. He has gone on to make over 80 appearances for the Antlers, establishing himself as one of their mainstays at the age of just 22.
Misao has also made his international bow, debuting for Japan in a 4-1 defeat to South Korea.
On the back of stellar performances for his club, Misao was also named in Japan’s preliminary squad for the 2018 World Cup in Russia although he did not make the final 23-man squad.
However, his performances for the Antlers have earned him plenty of recognition and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he goes on to win the award on November 28.
#2 Abdelkarim Hassan (Al Sadd)
Hassan starred for the Qatari side Al Sadd on their run to the AFC Champions League semi-finals, where they ultimately lost out to Persepolis.
Hassan featured in 11 games for his side in the competition in total, but while they did manage just 1 clean sheet throughout, he proved to be a dynamic presence on the left flank.
Hassan made his debut for Al Sadd in 2010, and in the following year, was the youngest player to feature in the 2011 AFC Champions League at just 17.
His meteoric rise continued as he was named the Young Player of the Year in the 2012/13 Qatar Stars League. The next step of his career came when he was loaned out to Belgian side Eupen where he made 10 appearances before returning to Al Sadd and inspiring them to a semi-final finish in the AFC Champions League this year.
Hassan remains an outside shot to win the Asian Footballer of the Year award in what is his third nomination.
#3 Yuma Suzuki (Kashima Antlers)
Another integral member of the Kashima Antlers’ AFC Champions League winning team, Yuma Suzuki’s performances caught the eye and he was named the tournament’s most valuable player. The 22-year-old bagged 2 goals and 4 assists to lift his side to the title and was inarguably their main man throughout – and their creative spark.
Suzuki rose through the Antlers youth system, making his first-team debut in 2014. He has gone on to make over 140 appearances for the Japanese side, registering 45 goals and 22 assists to his name.
He also starred in the Antlers’ J-League campaign, notching 11 goals and 9 assists in 30 games and leading them to the third spot.
Suzuki received his maiden call-up to the Japanese national team earlier this year for the Kirin Challenge Cup but had to withdraw due to an ankle injury suffered in the AFC Champions League.
After stellar performances at the domestic level, Suzuki is the frontrunner to receive the best player award come November 28.