World Football: Ranking the Top 10 Asian Players on the Planet

Phil ConstableCorrespondent IMarch 21, 2011

World Football: Ranking the Top 10 Asian Players on the Planet

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    There are great players from all corners of the globe. South American teams dazzle us with their flair and carnival football from Brazil and Argentina, European teams impress us with efficient, technical football from Germany and Spain and African teams compete through their strength and athleticism through Ghana and Nigeria.

    Even the North Americans are starting to catch up in the footballing world by getting increased publicity and exposure for the beautiful game.

    However, probably the most overlooked and under-represented footballing continent is Asia, bizarre given the fact that Asia makes up 60 percent of the world's population.

    Only three Asian teams made it to the 2010 World Cup, staggering given the geographical enormity of Asia and its people.

    However, there are some rays of light for Asian football with some genuine stars of Asian football reaching the top leagues and clubs in Europe. Here are my top 10 Asian footballers in the game today.

10. Ryo Miyaichi

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    ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - MARCH 13:  Ryo Miyaichi during the Eredivisie match between Feyenoord and NAC at the Kuip on March 13, 2011 in Rotterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Olaf Kraak/Getty Images)
    Olaf Kraak/Getty Images

    Miyaichi plays for Arsenal—this means we already know he's young, gifted and out on loan.

    At 18, Miyaichi has plenty of time to develop and is getting playing time on loan at Feyenoord.

    If the Japanese midfielder can maintain his time on the field, he'll develop into a good player.

9. Shunsuke Nakamura

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    PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 28:  Shunsuke Nakamura looks on during a Japan training session ahead of their 2010 World Cup Stage 2 Round of 16 match against Paraguay at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on June 28, 2010 in Pretoria, South Africa.  (Photo by Mark K
    Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

    Nakamura's finest days were the four years he spent at Celtic and his single greatest moment came when he scored the winning free-kick against Manchester United in the Champions League.

    Nowadays Nakamura is back in Japan playing for Yokohama and is slowing down at the age of 32.

    There may only be a couple more good years left for Nakamura, but he's still an expert technician.

8. Yasuhito Endō

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    Endo is a stalwart of Japanese football and still has some energy left in his well-travelled legs at the age of 31.

    With over 100 caps to his name, one of only four players to accomplish the milestone, and approaching 300 appearances for Gamba Osaka, Endo is experienced and still quality in the centre of midfield.

7. Ki Sung-Yueng

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    GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - OCTOBER 24:  Ki Sung Yeung of Celtic in action during the Clydesdale Bank Premier League match between Celtic and Rangers at Celtic Park on October 24, 2010 in Glasgow, Scotland.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    The South Korean has already played numerous games for Celtic and at 22-years-old has a lot of potential going forward.

    With over 30 caps to his name, Sung-Yeung has plenty of international experience already and has plenty of years to grow as a footballer.

    If the midfielder can break into the Celtic first team he'll have a great future ahead of him.

6. Koo Ja-Cheol

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    GUANGZHOU, CHINA - NOVEMBER 10:  Ja Cheol Koo of South Korea celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Men's Football Group C first round match between South Korea and Jordan ahead of the 16th Asian Games Guangzhou 2010 at Yuexiu Stadium on November
    Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    At only 22-years-old, Koo Ja-Cheol has the potential to be a great player and is already playing in Europe after a recent transfer to Wolfsburg in the winter.

    Previously, the midfielder had arranged a trial at Blackburn, but couldn't complete it due to sub-standard weather conditions.

    The South Korean has already captained his country and if he can get regular football in Germany will develop into an excellent footballer.

5. Ali Al Habsi

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    WIGAN, ENGLAND - MARCH 19:  Wigan goal keeper Ali Al Habsi celebrates the winning goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Wigan Athletic and Birmingham City at the DW Stadium on March 19, 2011 in Wigan, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/
    Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

    The most famous footballer to come out of Oman (let's face it it's not difficult), Ali Al Habsi has established himself as a decent quality Premier League goalkeeper.

    At 29, Al Habsi has plenty of years left at the top level and forced highly rated keeper Chris Kirkland for the starting job at Wigan.

    Even if Wigan are consigned to the second division at the end of the season, as it's looking increasingly likely, I'm sure there will be no shortage of teams ready to take on the services of the Omanian, or Omanise or Omani...seriously which one is it?

4. Shinji Kagawa

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    DOHA, QATAR - JANUARY 21:  Shinji Kagawa of Japan in action during the AFC Asian Cup quarter final match between Japan and Qatar at Al-Gharafa Stadium on January 21, 2011 in Doha, Qatar.  (Photo by Koki Nagahama/Getty Images)
    Koki Nagahama/Getty Images

    At only 22, Kagawa has plenty of potential and has already found a home in European football with Borussia Dortmund and has 20 caps for Japan to his name already.

    The attacking midfielder broke his metatarsal in the recent Asia Cup final after scoring two crucial goals to see Japan reach the final.

    Kagawa has the chance to develop into a quality player and have success at both club and international level in the future.

3. Lee Chung-Yong

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    BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 12: Chung-Yong Lee of Bolton Wanderers applauds the fans during the FA Cup sponsored by E.On Sixth Round match between Birmingham City and Bolton Wanderers at St Andrews on March 12, 2011 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Jami
    Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    Lee is another rising star both in the Premier League and in Asia. At just 22-years-old, Lee has bags of potential and has forced his way into Owen Coyle's starting lineup with his manager now resting him for Bolton's biggest games.

    If Lee can continue to develop, he may well be on top of this list in a couple of years.

2. Keisuke Honda

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    PORTO, PORTUGAL - MARCH 17:  (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN ALL JAPANESE MEDIA UNTIL 48 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Keisuke Honda of CSKA Moscow runs with the ball during the UEFA Europa League round of 16 second leg match between FC Porto and CSKA M
    Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

    Honda is a rising star in Asian football and is taking over the mantle being left by the likes of Park Ji-Sung. 

    The 24-year-old is one of those now playing regular football in Europe with CSKA Moscow and has become a fixture in the Japan team.

    If Honda can continue to play at a high level a move to a bigger, more central European club may be around the corner.

1. Park Ji Sung

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    DOHA, QATAR - JANUARY 25: Ji-Sung Park of Korea in action during the AFC Asian Cup Semi Final match between Japan and South Korea at Al-Gharafa Stadium on January 25, 2011 in Doha, Qatar.  (Photo by Koki Nagahama/Getty Images)
    Koki Nagahama/Getty Images

    The most famous of all Asian footballers and the modern-day face of Asian football.

    In playing, and at a high level, for Manchester United, Park has become an icon in Asian football with United being the most popular club in Asia.

    Park's constant energy and passion have seen him get significant playing time at Old Trafford and was a catalyst in South Korea reaching a historic semi-final at their home world cup in 2002.

    At 30, Park appears to have some good years in him yet and if he can stay healthy can be an integral part of United's plans in the future.

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