To kick off our 2017 #SFGTop100 Asia countdown, Martin Lowe runs down players ranked 76-100 in our list. Only three of the 25 featured were present in last year’s rundown, ranging from a UEFA Champions League regular and an AFC Champions League champion through to a Macau international and a re-born South Korean, specially profiled by our resident K League expert Tim Lee, all together illustrating the breadth in which achievement has been assessed over the last 12 months. We hope you enjoy.
100. Jong Il-Gwon (Last Year: 29)
Rimyongsu (PRK) / North Korea / Attacking Midfield
While North Korea haven’t reached the heights they did last year, Jong remains their most potent attacking weapon, scoring twice in their East Asian Cup qualifying campaign and also in their friendly victory over UAE.
99. Mohammed Dawood (New Entry)
Al Naft SC (IRQ) / Iraq / Striker
Star of September’s AFC U16 Championships, scoring 6 goals, in addition to the winning penalty in the final. Thus clinching Iraq’s first title at this age range and scoop a personal MVP tournament award for himself.
98. Mohammadi Milad (New Entry)
Terek Grozny (RUS) / Iran / Left Back
Broke through in a strong Terek Grozny side who are pushing for Europe in Russia. Also nailed down a left back spot in an Iran side who are yet to concede a goal while he’s started.
97. Adisak Kraisorn (New Entry)
Muangthong United (THA) / Thailand / Striker
Finished as the top domestic goal scorer in the Thai Premier League despite missing a large chunk of the season with a recurring knee injury. Came within minutes of scoring the goal that would’ve put Iraq out in WCQ Round 2 back in March.
96. Gen Shoji (New Entry)
Kashima Antlers (JPN) / Japan / Centre Back
A key component in the J-League’s stingiest defence at the start of the year, ended it on a high with a Championship final winning medal and a Club World Cup final appearance against Real Madrid. Also saw a recall to the national team, featuring off the bench against Bulgaria.
95. Leong Ka Hang (New Entry)
Pegasus (HKG) / Macau / Striker
Player of the tournament in Malaysia as Macau made the final of the inaugural AFC Solidarity Cup. Earned a move to Pegasus after leading Tai Po to the Hong Kong First Division title in May.
94. Ibrahim Alma (New Entry)
Al-Ittihad (SYR) / Syria / Goalkeeper
Been in inspirational form for the national team during their World Cup qualification campaign, keeping clean sheets in 4 of his last 7 matches, while conceding only twice in Round 3 where Syria were widely written off at the start.
93. Ahmed Yasser (New Entry)
Lekhwiya (QAT) / Qatar / Centre Back
A defender that has come on from being a promising left back, to become a mainstay at centre back in Jorge Fossati’s improving Qatari national team. An Aspire graduate with all the technical hallmarks expected of him. Made it through to the knockout stages of the Champions League with Lekhwiya.
92. Ji Dong-won (New Entry)
Augsburg (GER) / South Korea / Striker
A striker who is slowly turning his career around after being frustrated for far too long. Picking up regular starts now in the Bundesliga and has also nailed down a starting spot on the right of attack in Stielike’s national team plans.
91. Alex Akande (New Entry)
Kitchee (HKG) / Hong Kong / Striker
Remains one of Hong Kong’s most dangerous strikers, recording 6 goals in two games in their recent East Asian Cup qualification campaign after making his national team debut last year. Despite being in and out of Kitchee’s first team, continues to produce from the bench.
90. Matthew Jurman (New Entry)
Sydney FC (AUS) / Australia / Centre Back
Colossal defender who had the season of his career last campaign, and started in the same vein in a very solid Sydney side this term after refusing offers from Europe over the winter. Starting to live up to calls that he should receive a national team selection in the new year, his chances will now improve after joining Suwon Bluewings in South Korea.
89. Le Cong Vinh (New Entry)
Bin Duong (VIE) / Vietnam / Striker
Bowed out of international football this year, and for sure Vietnam will be gutted to be losing their legendary goal scorer. He ended on somewhat of a high, scoring twice in December’s Suzuki Cup, but also played a key part in Vietnam’s promising World Cup qualification campaign.
88. Temurkhuja Abdukholikov (New Entry)
Lokomotiv Tashkent (UZB) / Uzbekistan / Striker
Scored 22 in 26 UFPL matches this year to lead Lokomotiv to the UFPL title and himself (four goals clear) of the field in the golden boot race. Was a key component of his side’s surprise run to the ACL quarter-finals, scoring three goals in the group stage.
87. Chencho Gyeltshen (Last Year: 100)
Tertons (BHU) / Bhutan / Winger
Building on his breakthrough year, Chencho continued to inspire brilliance into 2016. Was the difference for Bhutan in overcoming Bangladesh in the ACQ playoffs, while domestically since returning home with Tertons, he scored another brace to keep their AFC Cup 2017 hopes alive.
86. Nasser Al-Shamrani (New Entry)
Al-Hilal (KSA) / Saudi Arabia / Striker
Plagued by injuries since his AFC Player of the Year victory in 2014, but when fit he remains essential to Al-Hilal’s attacking merits. Started this season in good form, scoring back-to-back braces in October.
85. Jackson Irvine (New Entry)
Burton Albion (ENG) / Australia / Centre Midfield
Scottish League Cup winner with Ross County last season, which earned him a move to England with Championship side Burton Albion where he scored 4 goals in his first 6 matches. Has become a regular national team squad member over the last 12 months.
84. Ahmed Alaa (New Entry)
Al-Rayyan (QAT) / Qatar / Striker
A goal scoring star in Qatar’s ultimately doomed home AFC U23 Championships at the start of the year, scoring 6 goals in 5 matches in their 4th placed finish. Beginning to feature more with champions Al-Rayyan domestically, while he started for the senior national side that beat Russia in November.
83. Hitoshi Sogahata (New Entry)
Kashima Antlers (JPN) / Japan / Goalkeeper
Legendary goalkeeper, now 37 years of age, will look back on 2016 as one of his most successful as a player. J.League title winner, alongside an Emperor’s Cup win on new years day (we’ll sneak that one in here), but his most eye catching display was against Real Madrid in December’s Club World Cup. Sogahata proving at times an immovable object which forced the European champions to extra-time.
82. Jung Jo-Gook (New Entry)
Gwangju (KOR) / South Korea / Striker
There weren’t many who expected anything from Gwangju striker Jung Jogook this season. Only two double-digit scoring seasons (2003 & 2010), a low key move to France that fizzled out in two years (2011 & 2012) and the solitary league goal in 2015… the 32 year-old’s glory days seemed firmly behind him. And yet, it’s been a breakout season for “The Patriot” with 20 league goals (the most by a Korean player since 2012), K League MVP honours and a well-paying move to big spenders Gangwon.
81. Meshaal Abdullah (New Entry)
Al-Ahli (QAT) / Qatar / Striker
At 32, Adbullah is finding the best form of his career for Al-Ahli, finishing last season as the highest Qatari born scorer in the Stars League with 18, while currently repeating the same feat this term. All this in a team struggling to keep pace in mid-table has Abdullah continuing to warrant his place in the national team setup throughout.
80. Stefan Mauk (New Entry)
NEC (NED) / Australia / Centre Midfield
A catalyst in a deep lying playmaker role in Adelaide United’s A-League title triumph after moving from Mebourne City in January. Received his first national team call up in May before making the move to Europe in the Eredivisie over the summer.
79. Zeng Cheng (New Entry)
Guangzhou Evergande (CHN) / China / Goalkeeper
A near ever-present for Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou ever since their dominance on the domestic game took action. 2016 also saw his return to prominence with the national team, keeping three out of 4 clean sheets in World Cup qualification before a cruciate ligament injury struck him down in September.
78. Ismail Ahmed (New Entry)
Al Ain (UAE) / UAE / Centre Back
An AFC Asian Player of the Year nominee in 2014, Ismail returned to prominence after a stuttering 2015. Alongside countryman Mohanad Salem in defence for club and country, Ismail proved he’s more than just a physical presence, culminating this year with a narrow Champions League final defeat.
77. Shinji Kagawa (Last Year: 81)
Borussia Dortmund (GER) / Japan / Attacking Midfield
Continues to let national team observers down, but conversely remains at a consistently high level domestically. A key part of the Borussia Dortmund side to finish in behind Bayern in the Bundesliga title race last term.
76. Karim Ansarifard (New Entry)
Panionios (GRE) / Iran / Striker
A striker who is trying to kick start his career in Europe after flopping in Spain, is starting to make a name for himself in Greece with Panionios. In a limited role last season, he came out of it with an impressive tally of 5 goals since the start of the year, before starting in a similarly potent vein this.