Top 10 Asian Football Players
Son Heung-min had a memorable 2014, but where did he rank in the top 10?
It has certainly been an up-and-down year for Asian football and ESPN FC has a go at choosing the 10 best performers of 2014.
10. Boualem Khoukhi (Al Arabi and Qatar)
The Algerian-born star scored six goals to help the men in maroon lift the West Asian Football Federation Championship in January. Ten months later, the 24-year-old scored the winning goal in the final of the Gulf Cup to beat Saudi Arabia in Riyadh.
9. Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls and Australia)
It is a little worrying the former Everton man is still by far Australia's most dangerous goal threat at the age of 35. He scored seven in 2014, with the most magnificent coming on the biggest stage of all. His volley against Netherlands was one of the goals of the World Cup but there was also a strike against Chile that threatened to turn the game on its head. With Cahill around, there is always the chance of something happening, no matter how good the opposition.
8. Keisuke Honda (AC Milan and Japan)
The second half of 2014 has made up for a disappointing first during which the "Emperor" was scrambling for form even if a fine goal against Ivory Coast - a bright moment in a dismal World Cup - hinted otherwise. Honda struggled for a while after joining AC Milan in January but under new boss Filippo Inzaghi, the ex-CSKA Moscow maestro has been making up for it this season by becoming one of the Rossoneri's stars. If Milan do return to the Champions League, the 28-year-old will deserve a fair share of the credit.
7. Ki Sung-yueng (Swansea City and South Korea)
As elegant a player as you will find in the Premier League, Ki has matured in 2014. He spent much of the first half of the year helping Sunderland avoid relegation and a defence-splitting pass against Fulham was surely one of the assists of 2014. Consistently good for his national team before, during and after the World Cup, the former Celtic star has become an integral part of Swansea's side. Just 25 but with a wealth of experience, Ki has a bad game almost as rarely as he gives the ball away.
6. Ante Covic (Western Sydney Wanderers)
Australia fans were up in arms after the goalkeeper wasn't even on the short list to win the AFC Player of the Year and rightly so as he played a massive part in Western Sydney Wanderers, a club formed only in 2012, winning the Asian Champions League. The well-travelled goalkeeper was great as the A-League team somehow made it past continental giants to the final and then simply inspired in both legs against Al Hilal. You would have to go far to find a better performance between the sticks anywhere in the world over the past 12 months.
5. Mehrdad Pooladi (Al Shahania and Iran)
Carlos Queiroz's introduction of Pooladi into the Iran national team has been an unqualified success. The left-back was excellent at the World Cup and gave Lionel Messi as tough a game as any. The Argentine's last-minute strike was cruel but especially so on the hard-working and tough-tackling 27-year-old. While escaping Persepolis FC was wise, with a little more patience and better advice perhaps Pooladi would not have joined a team fighting relegation from the Qatar Stars League and instead have made it to Europe where he has admirers.Tim Cahill scored one of the goals of the World Cup with a sensational volley for Australia vs. Netherlands.
4. Ashraf Nu'man (Al Faisaly and Palestine)
Thanks to Nu'man's goal against the Philippines in the final of the AFC Challenge Cup in May, Palestine will participate in a first Asian Cup in January. The Bethlehem-born forward and his teammates will get a chance to show the rest of the continent and the world what they can do.