Asian Icons

Son Heung-min, Minamino, Taremi and more: Vote for your AFC International Player of the Week!


Kuala Lumpur: Asia’s stars shone as bright as ever, with every corner of Europe, and almost every position on the pitch, producing outstanding individual performances.

Mana Iwabuchi produced a goal for the ages, Son Heung-min and Jeong Woo-yeong flew the flag for Korea Republic, while Takumi Minamino and Mat Ryan both made impressive debuts for new Premier League clubs. Plus, Mehdi Taremi and Sam Kerr continued their exceptional form in front of goal.

But who was the best of them all? There were so many worthy contenders this week that our usual perfect 10 has expanded to become a dream dozen.

Study the shortlist below, based on performances from February 4 to 10, and don’t forget to vote for the player you consider the most deserving.

See also :

Mana Iwabuchi (Aston Villa, Japan)

90 minutes, 1 goal, 1 shot assist, 12 duels won (1-0 v Tottenham Hotspur)

Whether the Japanese star is voted AFC International Player of the Week or not, she surely produced the best goal by any Asian player abroad in the last seven days with her sensational 35-yard match-winner against Spurs, continuing the 2011 Women’s World Cup-winner’s stunning impact in England.


Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur, Korea Republic)

90 minutes, 1 goal, 81% pass accuracy, 2 shot assists (2-0 v West Bromwich Albion)
90 minutes, 2 assists, 7 chances created, 5 key passes (4-5 v Everton)

While the Tottenham women’s side fell victim to the exploits of an Asian superstar, their men’s team befitted from having one of their own, as Son ended at six-game scoring drought, as well as a three-game losing streak for Jose Mourinho’s side, before starring in a mid-week FA Cup defeat.


Mat Ryan (Arsenal, Australia)

90 minutes, 7 saves, 3 reflex saves (0-1 v Aston Villa)

Boyhood Gunners fan Ryan’s club debut began in nightmare fashion when he conceded a deflected goal within two minutes, but the Australian custodian recovered to make several outstanding saves, providing a bright spot in an Arsenal defeat at Villa Park.


Jeong Woo-yeong (Freiburg, Korea Republic)

69 minutes, 1 goal, 85% pass accuracy, 1 shot assist (2-1 v Borussia Dortmund)

How to announce yourself in Bundesliga. 69 high-quality minutes and a fabulous goal earned 21-year-old Korean Jeong Woo-yeong Player of the Match honours against a Dortmund side featuring the likes Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho.


Mehdi Taremi (FC Porto, IR Iran)

90 minutes, 6 shots, 2 successful dribbles (0-0 v Belenenses)
85 minutes, 1 goal, 1 shot assist, 80% pass accuracy (2-2 v Braga)

The rare phenomenon of Mehdi Taremi playing a football match and not scoring a goal was spotted in Portugal, but the Iranian striker didn’t take long to make up for it with an emphatic volley against Braga, taking his tally to 12 for the season, with seemingly many more to come.


Takehiro Tomiyasu (Bologna, Japan)

90 minutes, 12 interceptions, 79% pass accuracy (3-0 v Parma)

If Taremi is Asia’s in-form attacker in Europe, Tomiyasu is surely among the continent’s hottest defenders. The 22-year-old continued his terrific 2020-21 season with a fine display at right-back as Bologna eased past struggling Parma in Serie A.


Ryota Morioka (RSC Charleroi, Japan)

90 minutes, 83% pass accuracy, 25 duels won (1-1 v Zulte-Waregem)

A standout performance from Ryota Morioka earns him a return to this poll, but he couldn’t help RSC Charleroi claim the three points against Zulte-Waregem. This latest showing was what we have come to expect from the Japanese midfielder; Morioka is statistically among the best players in Belgium this season.


Takumi Minamino (Southampton, Japan)

90 minutes, 1 goal, 83% pass accuracy, 12 duels won (2-3 v Newcastle)

Rounding out this week’s strong Japanese contingent is Takumi Minamino, who took 29 minutes into his Southampton debut to slam home an excellent goal against Newcastle, and – in what was a horror week for the Saints – provided some cause for optimism.


Martin Boyle (Hibernian, Australia)

90 minutes, 2 goals, 4 shots on target (2-0 v Aberdeen)

Appearing for the first time in this column is Martin Boyle, the Australian national team forward who continued his excellent run of form with a match-winning brace against Scottish Premiership rivals Aberdeen. The 27-year-old has netted four times in his last three outings.


Sam Kerr (Chelsea, Australia)

90 minutes, 1 goal, 1 shot assist, 100% aerial duels won (1-2 v Brighton)
81 minutes – statistics unavailable (3-0 v Arsenal)

Also finding the net, as ever, was Sam Kerr who opened the scoring with a towering header, only for Chelsea to ultimately suffer a shock defeat to lowly Brighton. Kerr has been on fire in England, scoring eight goals in her last ten matches including Wednesday’s win over Arsenal.


Awer Mabil (FC Midtjylland, Australia)

29 minutes, 1 goal, 78% pass accuracy (2-1 v Randers)

The fourth and final Australian inclusion in this week’s list is Awer Mabil, who made a match-winning cameo for Danish champions Midtjylland, complete with an injury-time winner. The former Adelaide United winger has now scored three goals in all competitions this season.


Mahmoud Al Mawas (FC Botoşani, Syria)

90 minutes, 86% pass accuracy (3-2 v Chindia Târgovişte)
90 minutes, 3 shots, 8 duels won (2-1 CFR Cluj)

Syria’s Al Mawas didn’t find the net this week, but he retains his place in our list after helping Botoşani to back-to-back wins, including one over title holders Cluj. With Al Mawas influential, Botoşani have won five of their last six matches.


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