Following the conclusion of the 2011-12 European league season, Goal.com has put together a list of the best performing Asian Football Confederation playersBy Ben Somerford | Asian Football Editor
Borussia Dortmund ace Shinji Kagawa continues to steal the limelight when it comes to Asians in Europe but there's an abundance of talent throughout the continent - from Ki Sung-Yueng in Scotland through to James Troisi in Turkey and Keisuke Honda in Russia. The 2011-12 season saw many Asian stars light up leagues and Goal.com has put together a top 10 list to honour their campaigns.
Interestingly, some of the biggest names which were among last year's top 10 have dropped out this term, such as Park Ji-Sung, Yuto Nagatomo, Tim Cahill, Park Chu-Young and Atsuto Uchida; highlighting both a new generation of top-level footballers and the pool of quality talent across Asia. Here's the list:
|10. HAJIME HOSOGAI | Augsburg
The ex-Urawa Reds midfielder enjoyed a loan spell at Augsburg, where he was regarded highly enough to make 32 starts after coming off the bench on his debut. Hosogai was important as a holding midfielder, breaking down opposition attacks for a team who did well to stay up.
|9. JAVAD NEKOUNAM | Osasuna
Nekounam remained a key member for Osasuna in the heart of their midfield to ensure the Pamplonan side comfortably stayed up once more. The Iranian wore the captain's armband on occasions, including against Barcelona. Nekounam scored five goals in La Liga, helping the team finish an impressive seventh.
|8. KI SUNG-YUENG | Celtic
The 23-year-old midfielder was one of the bright lights for Celtic in the first half of the season, with his vision a notable feature of his game, along with his set-pieces. Ki's form dropped off after the turn of the year due to injuries but he still played his part in a title-winning campaign.
|7. EIJI KAWASHIMA | Lierse
Clean Sheets: 11
Kawashima's Lierse had a poor 2011-12 season, finishing the campaign down in 12th, but the Japanese custodian wasn't to blame, conceding only 36 goals in 30 matches, the league's equal-fifth best record. He's already discussed the possibility of moving to a bigger league such as Italy's Serie A.
|6. ADAM FEDERICI | Reading
Clean Sheets: 20
The Socceroos No.2 was one of the key components of the Royals' charge to the Championship title and promotion to the Premier League. Federici was the Championship Player of the Month in February after a string of clean sheets, where his shot-stopping ability and leadership qualities were on full show.
|5. KOO JA-CHEOL | Wolfsburg/Augsburg
The 23-year-old South Korea international may have battled for regular game time at Wolfsburg under Felix Magath prior to the winter break but his loan move to Augsburg revitalised him. Koo rediscovered his best form in attack, playing a major role in their surprise survival.
|4. SHINJI OKAZAKI | Stuttgart
Bruno Labbadia regularly deployed the busy Japan striker out wide for the Swabians this term, where he produced some spectacular moments including a wonder bicycle goal against Hannover. Three goals in three straight games during February was his season highlight.
|3. ALI AL HABSI | Wigan
Clean Sheets: 8
It's never easy being a goalkeeper at a club expected to get relegated, with Al Habsi making a massive 119 saves this season. The Omani does deserve special recognition for keeping the Latics together with their strong defensive performances before they found form in attack late in the season to rubber stamp their Premier League survival.
|2. BRETT HOLMAN | AZ Alkmaar
Holman was a major part of AZ's Eredivisie title push and run to the Europa League quarter-finals, which included a stunning volley against Valencia. The energetic Aussie was a regular threat down the left flank for AZ with his industry and tireless nature. He's off to Aston Villa now.
|1. SHINJI KAGAWA | Borussia Dortmund
The Japanese attacker had a few early season form issues but really hit top gear and never let up as Dortmund stormed towards a second straight Bundesliga crown. Kagawa, who missed most of the second-half of last term, set up and scored crucial goals in big games, including the one against Monchengladbach which clinched the title. The 23-year-old deserves a lot of credit for Jurgen Klopp's side's record-breaking campaign.
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