Asia Editor John Duerden selects ten players who could be making headlines in 2010...
Wang Yunlong (Shanghai East Asia and China)
Small, speedy and skilful, it was inevitable perhaps that Wang was going to get the nickname ‘The Chinese Messi’. Wang has shown during his stints with China’s Under-17 and Under-19 teams that he can handle anything that is thrown his way.
He has also shone for Shanghai East Asia in the second division but it is far from certain that he will play in the top league as clubs from Japan, Korea and France are already interested.
The Chinese Messi?
Teerasil Dangda (Muang Thong United and Thailand)
16 goals in 30 games in an impressive strike rate wherever you go but when you are averaging just over a goal every two games for your national team then you know that you are going to attract interest and the 21 year-old has already attracted interest from England’s Premier League.
I am not talking about Manchester City - though Teerasil was one of the trio taken to Manchester City back in 2008 as part of the club’s attempt to establish a brand in south-east Asia - but there has been recent interest in a striker that is establishing himself as one of the brightest in the region.
Thailand Celebrate Another Teerasil Strike
Yoo Byung-soo (Incheon United and South Korea)
It was a first season in professional football for Yoo but he scored 12 goals in 26 matches in the K-League, an impressive feat in an Incheon United team that doesn’t create too many chances. Next for Yoo is to break his way into the national team.
He has the physical strength to battle with any European centre-back and if he can show that his first season was not a fluke, then a bright future awaits.
Yoo's The Man?
Ahmad Khalil (Al Ahli and UAE)
Khalil helped Al Ahli to the domestic title and was one of the best players of the FIFA Under-20 World Cup. He is widely tipped to be the first, or one of the first, Asian Arabian players to head to the big leagues. Played some part, but not too much, in the failed World Cup qualification campaign. His time could come in 2010.
More Accolades To Come?
Naoki Yamada (Urawa Reds and Japan)
He may look 12 years old but the baby-faced midfielder has ability and composure beyond his years. Earlier this month, fans in South Korea came to see Ki Sung-yong sign off with the Under-23 team before leaving for Celtic but were treated instead to two late goals from Yamada who snatched victory for the visitors.
Agile, dynamic and skilful, the 19 year-old has already made his international debut, only three Japanese players have been younger and pulled on the blue shirt, and made a goal for Keisuke Honda against Chile. Already, European clubs know his name and it is probably only a matter of time before he heads west.
Honda Says Thank You To Yamada
Mohd Zaquan (Negeri Sembilan and Malaysia)
The 22 year-old is starting to make news in south-east Asia and impressed Chelsea when he lined up against the English giants. There have been rumours of moves to Europe though, not yet to one of the major leagues. Small in stature but with an eye for goal, Zaquan, along with his brother, is one of those players who means that Malaysia’s future looks a little brighter.
Tommy Oar (Brisbane Roar and Australia)
Fans down under have high hopes for this teenager with a name that is a headline writer's dream. Already the winger has been dubbed 'The Next Harry Kewell' and already the Brisbane Roar man, who turned 18 in December, has been called up to the national team squad by Pim Verbeek.
If he makes the pitch and impresses in Kuwait on January 6 then a place on the plane for South Africa in June will be a little less unlikely.
Oar In Action
Hassan Abd Al Fattah (Al Karama and Jordan)
Hardly young at the age of 27 but could be about to break out of national renown into the regional and, perhaps, the continental stage. The creative midfielder has an eye for goal, as he demonstrated back in World Cup qualifier in 2008 with two goals against South Korea in Seoul.
He is now about to start his career with Al Karama. The Syrian giants are one of the top teams in West Asia and both parties, as well as fans at home, expect much.
Changing Shirts For The Blue Of Karama
Arindam Bhattacharya (Churchill Brothers and India)
The star of the South Asian Cup, the 20 year-old saved the day and gave the Indian team the regional title. It was an impressive tournament for the goalkeeper who models himself on German great Oliver Kahn. It ended a good year that saw club Churchill Brothers clinch the I-League title. More is expected in 2010.
He has already entered the national team set-up but still has to dethrone the nation’s number one Subrata Pal. That will not be easy but Bhattacharaya has a bright future.
New Gloves On The Block
Abdullah Suhail (Al Shabab and Saudi Arabia)
Abdullah Suhail (Al Shabab and Saudi Arabia)
The left-back is constantly improving and at the age of 24 is still far from his peak. Even so, he has established himself in the Saudi national team and as one of the best defenders in the league. Solid at the back, Abdullah offers much going forward too. It is just unfortunate that he won’t get the chance to showcase his talents next summer.