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Asian Player of the Year Top 10 Contenders
Saudi Arabia, Iran, South Korea, Japan and Uzbekistan all have players vying for regional No.1
John Duerden (internews)     Print Article 
Published 2005-10-17 14:13 (KST)   
The Asian Football Confederation has announced the 10 nominees in the running to receive the Asian Player of the Year award. The list will be whittled down to three on Nov. 14 and the winner will be announced on Nov. 30.

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Park Ji Sung (South Korea and Manchester United)

Park Ji Sung
©2005 Kwon W.S.
The favorite, and the case for the 24-year old is pretty strong -- he is the first Asian to make a real impact in the UEFA Champions League with his excellent performances in the UEFA Champions League for former club PSV Eindhoven.

Domestically Park scored seven times as the Dutch giants won their 18th league title. Talk of the former Kyoto Purple Sanga star winning the 2005 prize intensified with a high-profile move to Manchester United.

Internationally, the Suwon-born player was an important part of the South Korean team that clinched a place in Germany 2006 making Park Ji Sung the man that the others have to catch.

Sami Al Jaber (Saudi Arabia and Al Hilal)

Al Jaber is a legend in Saudi Arabian football -- a 34-year-old striker who has seen pretty much all there is to see in Asian football -- not surprising as he made his international debut at the age of 17.

The Al Hilal forward returned to help the "Sons of the Deserts" qualify for the World Cup and it will be his fourth appearance in the competition -- a fantastic achievement.

Domestically, things haven't been too bad either. Al Hilal won the Saudi League, with Al Jaber's name appearing on the scoresheet eleven times. The Prince Faisal Cup also currently resides in Riyadh.

Sami Al-Jaber is in with a shout and could receive votes from those who believe he deserves some recognition after such a long and prosperous career.

Ali Karimi
©2005 AP
Ali Karimi (Iran and Bayern Munich)

The present holder of the prize won't be far away this year. The Wizard of Tehran performed well as Iran qualified for the World Cup in Germany.

He moved from Qatar to Germany and the mighty Bayern Munich in the summer and has impressed so far in the Bundesliga. Over the years, the Bavarian giants have enjoyed some titanic struggles with Manchester United, and with Park at the English club, this could be another one.

The fact that the prize has been won by an Iranian for the past two years could count against him.

Javed Nekounam (Iran and Pas)

The 25-year-old has developed into a midfielder of true class and it is only a matter of time before he becomes better known outside Iran and Asia.

It is expected that will be sooner rather than later as the Pas star looks set to join Bundesliga outfit Kaiserslautern in January.

Being of a defensive nature his performances don't often make headlines but serve to hold the fabric of whichever team he plays for together. However, his 10 goals in just under 70 appearances for his country compares well with the other, more attack-minded, midfielders on the list.

He was his usual reliable self as Iran comfortably achieved qualification for the 2006 World Cup and he has the talent to shine in Germany.

Maksim Shatskikh (Uzbekistan and Dynamo Kiev, Ukraine)

The only player from outside the "big four." The striker, who plies his trade in Kiev, with Ukrainian giants Dinamo and made the short-list of three two years ago but lost out to Mehdi Mahdavikia.

It is unlikely that the 27-year-old will win the prize -- Uzbekistan performed poorly in World Cup Qualifying though Shatskikh did enough to generate rumors of a possible move to Premier League club West Bromich Albion.

Lee Young Pyo (South Korea and Tottenham Hotspur, England)

It's isn't really fair to say that Park Ji Sung was the first Asia to make an impact in the Champions League but due to his attacking role, he received more attention and plaudits than the reliable Lee as the 28-year-old also impressed in that competition.

The versatile player scored two vital goals in South Korea's successful qualification campaign and was rewarded for his efforts by a move to Tottenham Hotspur.

The London club's coach hailed his new signing as 'the best left-back in Europe' but it is doubtful that such a position holds even glamour to win the prize but it will come close.

Shunsuke Nakamura
©2005 AP
Shunsuke Nakamura (Japan and Celtic, Scotland)

Japan's playmaker -- when he plays well Team Nippon does too and the team played well during the Confederations Cup in June. Few will forget his long-range goal against Brazil in Germany and his performances in those three games.

The elegant 26-year-old moved from Reggina in Italy to Glasgow and has shown enough in the rough and tumble of Scottish football to suggest that he has a bright future there.

However, starring in the Confederations Cup won't be enough for the Japanese star to be awarded the prize.

Mabrouk Zaid (Saudi Arabia and Al Ittihad)

The only goalkeeper in the 10 and such a position has little history of winning individual awards, but Zaid is solid as he showed in helping Saudi Arabia qualify for the World Cup, conceding only one goal in six games.

He also excels between the sticks for the best club team in Asia -- Al-Ittihad. The 25-year-old hopes to move to Europe and until he does, he's not going to win this kind of award.

Hidetoshi Nakata (Japan and Bolton Wanderers, England)

The icon of Japanese football is going for his third win but in truth has not been active enough in 2005 to warrant his inclusion in the 10. His return to the international scene after a year away was initially disappointing and his presence on the pitch seemed to upset Team Nippon's balance, and the 28-year-old offered to quit.

It was not accepted and the former Roma and Parma star performed well in June's confederation cup.

After an unhappy spell in Florence, the midfielder moved to English club Bolton Wanderers and is starting to impress in the town near Manchester.

Hamad Al Montashari (Saudi Arabia and Al Ittihad)

The 23-year-old is small for a central defender but what he lacks in height, he makes up class. He has shone in 2005 for his country, marshalling an impressive defense in the World Cup qualifiers and has looks like helping his team successfully defend the AFC Champions League title.

However, this year is too soon for the Al-Ittihad star but it won't be the last time his name appears on such a list.
©2005 OhmyNews

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