Son Heung-min has claimed his fifth successive Asian Footballer of the Year award and his seventh overall. The award, sponsored by Titan Sports, came into existence in 2013 and has been dominated by the Tottenham Hotspur and South Korea star.
The only two other players who have won the award are Keisuke Honda in 2013 and Shinji Okazaki in 2016. Honda won it for his outstanding performances for the Japan national team, while Okazaki won it for being part of the history-making Leicester City team that won the Premier League.
There is a committee of 50 judges that cast their votes for their favorite player. The committee is made up of 37 members from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and 13 expert guest judges. Each judge casts their votes for their five top players on a sliding scale that goes from six points for the top player and down to one point for the fifth player. The award is not only open to players from the AFC nations, but also to foreigners playing in the Asian leagues.
Son’s achievements in the past year include scoring 17 goals for club side Tottenham and scoring four goals for his country. He had an impressive individual season in the Premier League despite playing in a Spurs side that struggled under manager Nuno Espírito Santo.
The final scores from the judging panel showed the gulf between Son and the rest of the nominated players. He received 31 first-place votes for a total of 242 points. The second-place player was Iran’s Sardar Azmoun who plays for Zenit. He garnered 111 points, less than half of Son’s tally. With 90 points, the third-place player was Mehdi Taremi, who plays for Porto.
The Asian Footballer of the Year award is fast becoming similar to the Ballon d’Or, which has been shared between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for the past 13 years, with the only exception being in 2018 when Luka Modrić won it due to his exploits for Croatia in the World Cup. This trend of Son winning the award year after year may well continue into the future unless someone can dethrone the king of Asian football.