Goal.com's Asian Player & Team of the Month for December

It's time to reflect on the stars in Asia for December, and while it's been a quiet month with few internationals, there's still plenty of candidates worthy of mention
Welcome to Goal.com's new regular feature: Goal.com Asian Player of the Month.

Each month our worldwide team of editors will put forward a selected candidate, as chosen by Goal.com International, who deserves recognition for his performances over the course of the month.

Goal.com will also select an Asian Team of the Month as we look to provide more insight on football throughout the continent.

Asian Player of the Month | YUTO NAGATOMO


Like his Italian club Inter, the 2010-11 season has been a difficult campaign for Yuto Nagatomo up until a breakthrough December. Suddenly Inter are up to fifth in Serie A and the Samurai Blue defender has played a big role in their resurgence.

Inter may have started the month with losses to Udinese and CSKA Moscow, but Nagatomo was on hand to help turn it around with back-to-back goals in wins over Fiorentina and Genoa. Nagatomo's 'Ninja Header' was the most memorable.

However, it hasn't been goals alone, with several impressive performances in an advanced wing-back role plus a brace of assists in the 4-1 win over Lecce helping Claudio Ranieri's side record four consecutive victories to move within eight points of leaders AC Milan. Nagatomo has played his part and you get the feeling he isn't finished yet.

Honourable Mentions
Ali Al Habsi - Wigan
The Latics may be languishing down in the Premier League drop zone, but their Omani goalkeeper continues to impress despite their poor results. Wigan drew with both Chelsea and Liverpool in December, with Al Habsi playing a big part in both results, including a fine penalty save to deny Reds midfielder Charlie Adam.

Andik Vermansyah - Persebaya Surabaya
The 20-year-old scored a fine individual goal in the final minutes of the first leg (1-1) against Malaysia Super League champions Kelantan FA in the new Unity Cup. Andik became the central figure again during the return leg (3-2) in Surabaya. He scored the opening goal and provided two assists to help Persebaya claim the trophy. Perhaps a move abroad for the reported target Novara isn't far away?

Mustafa Amini - Central Coast Mariners
It was no coincidence that with Borussia Dortmund-bound teenager Mustafa Amini's return to fitness, the Mariners went on a run of six consecutive wins which shot them to the top of the A-League. The 18-year-old's craft in midfield and attacking threat has been on full show throughout the month, scoring a brace of goals in several impressive wins, including a sublime lofted goal to open the scoring in the big win over their 2010-11 Grand Final conquerors Brisbane Roar.

Balal Arezou - Afghanistan
The 22-year-old Afghanistan international was the most impressive centre-forward at the SAFF Championship. Arezou is extremely quick and has the skills to outfox a defender. The Norway-based striker scored six goals in the competition and had it not been for the heroics of Karanjit Singh under the bar for India in the finals, Arezou would have ended up as the top scorer and guided the West Asian side to go on to win their first silverware.

Asian Team of the Month | SHANGHAI SHENHUA
It may seem strange to nominate a team who haven't kicked a ball in anger during December, but Shanghai Shenhua have made a huge impact on Asian football during in the last month of 2011.

Shenhua's signing of French superstar Nicolas Anelka from Chelsea on a massive contract has been a major boost for Chinese football. Suddenly the rarely discussed Chinese Super League is in the news and it hasn't stopped there for Shenhua, who have also targeted Didier Drogba and Amauri.

Their owner Zhu Jun has promised another big signing, while he has continued to put his money where his mouth is, by luring former Fulham and Bordeaux boss Jean Tigana to the club as coach. All of a sudden, all eyes will be on the Chinese game in 2012 just when it needed it most and it's thanks to Zhu Jun and Shenhua's ambition and, of course, financial bravery.

Honourable Mentions
Buriram PEA (Thailand)

Not even Robbie Fowler could prevent Buriram PEA from ending Muang Thong United's recent dominance of the Thai Premier League, with the Thunder Castle clinching the crown midway through December as they moved an incredible 16 points clear with four games to play. Owner Newin Chidchob's financial muscle may have laid the foundations for Buriram's 2011 success, but coach Attaphol Buspakom deserves credit for getting the best out of players like Frank Ohandza, Surat Sukha and Suchao Nuchnum. With a record of 26 wins, six draws and one loss, you simply can't downplay Buriram's dominance.

Kashiwa Reysol (Japan)

They may have lost to Asian Champions League winners Al Sadd in the third-place play-off at the Club World Cup (CWC), but Reysol won over a lot of fans at the event with their style of football, where there's no star players but just a great team spirit. Reysol also clinched the Japanese title early in December, earning them their passage to the CWC where the likes of Hiroki Sakai (pictured) impressed.

Melbourne Heart (Australia) 

From A-League strugglers to title challengers, it's been a fair old turnaround for Melbourne Heart, who won five games on the trot throughout December to move up into second spot in the table. Their reincarnation has been incredible and a delight with some sublime football on show. Finally their Dutch boss John van 't Schip is reaping the rewards of his efforts to implement a truly European style with the likes of Fred and Mate Dugandzic shining.

Do you agree with Goal.com's Asian Player and Team of the Month awards for December and if not, who do you think deserves the honour...

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