With the European season almost complete, Goal.com offers its 10 best Asian players of the campaign
It's fair to say the highlight of the 2010-11 European season for Asian football was the number of players who had breakthrough campaigns with their clubs.
The apparent increase in Japanese players heading to Europe to embark on club careers arguably had an influence, but the number of young footballers from around Asia developing their game abroad certainly bodes well for the future.
With that in mind, Goal.com takes time to reflect on the Top 10 Asians in Europe for the 2010-11 season.
|10. Ryo Miyaichi (Feyenoord)
Little was known about the Japanese schoolkid before his loan move from Arsenal to Feyenoord in January, but when given his chance in Rotterdam he thrived. Miyaichi was man-of-the-match on his Feyenoord debut before scoring in his home bow for the club. The 18-year-old left-winger helped the club move away from the drop and his sparkling late-season performance against Willem II, when he scored two and assisted two more, saw him nicknamed 'Ryodinho'.
|9. Javad Nekounam (Osasuna)
The Iranian midfielder has had another strong season in the challenging Spanish La Liga. Nekounam has been a mainstay in the Osasuna starting line-up all term as the side have hovered just clear of relegation, although they are not safe just yet heading into the final day. Nekounam is incredibly Osasuna's top scorer this season with six goals, two of which came in a fine performance against Espanyol in February.
|8. Ki Sung-Yueng (Celtic)
The 'Korean Gerrard' certainly handled himself well enough in his first full season in the hurly-burly Scottish Premier League. At times the 22-year-old struggled to assert himself in midfield, which affected his consistency, but he displayed lovely technique and great creativity to offer Celtic fans plenty of hope with him pulling the strings. Ki's performance also aroused interest from Italian club Napoli.
|7. Atsuto Uchida (Schalke 04)
The former Kashima Antlers defender surprised many by becoming a regular feature in the Schalke side following his move from Japan. Uchida took a few weeks to settle in but found his feet, settling in at full-back as Schalke went all the way to the UEFA Champions League semi-finals. In his first European season, Uchida made over 25 appearances and was one of the bright points for Schalke who had a poor league campaign.
|6. Tim Cahill (Everton)
The Australian is a player who gives his all for the cause and this season has been no different despite struggling through the second half of the campaign with a foot problem. Cahill's early season form saw him near the top of the Premier League scoring charts with nine goals before the turn of the year. He had been at his predatory best with his trademark headers, but hasn't scored since the Asian Cup.
|5. Ali Al-Habsi (Wigan Athletic)
The Oman goalkeeper has been one of struggling Wigan's most consistent performers this term. Al-Habsi, on a season-long loan from Bolton, was given the nod ahead of Chris Kirkland as Wigan's number one early in the campaign and hasn't looked back, making countless saves which have given the Latics hope of survival going into the final day.
|4. Lee Chung-Yong (Bolton)
The Korean right-winger was a revelation in his first term in England and there was no second-season blues this term. Lee's creativity, pace and tirelessness have made him a popular figure at Reebok Stadium. He's provided eight assists and scored three goals for the Trotters this term and his importance to the side was shown when, after he left for the Asian Cup in January, the Trotters lost four of their next five league games.
|2. Shinji Kagawa (Borussia Dortmund)
Few imagined the impact the Japanese midfielder would have at eventual champions Dortmund when he signed for a mere €350,000 from Cerezo Osaka last year. Kagawa's midfield play was arguably the key to Dortmund's superb first half of the season which set up their title charge. By the break, Kagawa had eight goals in 17 games. Unfortunately he injured his metatarsal at the Asian Cup and missed most of the second half of term, otherwise he'd have been number one.
There you have it. Disagree with our selection? Let us know who you would have included in your esteemed line-up. As ever, we’re open to your suggestions and musings.