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Vote for your AFC International Player of the Week

Kuala Lumpur: It may be the world’s largest continent, but Asian football has grown to become bigger than Asia itself, with players leaving their footprint in every corner of the global game. 

In a new weekly poll, we celebrate the Asian stars who shine beyond their respective homelands and invite fans from throughout the continent to help us choose the AFC International Player of the Week.

In the opening edition of the series, we’ve shortlisted eight players from seven different countries following an action-packed week of football in Europe and beyond, but who deserves to win the maiden award?

Here are our contenders for September 8 to 14.

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Lee Kang-in (Valencia, Korea Republic)

73 minutes, 2 assists, 100% passing accuracy (4-2 v Levante)

Twice Valencia fell behind during their La Liga opener against Levante; twice Lee Kang-in provided a way back into the contest.

The 19-year-old set up equalisers for both Gabriel and Maxi Gomez – the first from a corner kick, the second from a superbly timed pass – to ensure Javi Garcia’s side began their campaign with three points.

Lee Seung-woo (Sint-Truiden, Korea Republic)

90 minutes, 2 goals, 86% passing accuracy (2-3 v Royal Antwerp)

While his countryman had been the provider in Spain, 22-year-old Lee Seung-woo did the scoring himself in Belgium, netting twice for Sint-Truiden in their home defeat to Royal Antwerp.

The Korean winger scored within the opening minute, then re-established STVV’s lead 20 minutes later, showing early signs of what may turn out to be a season to remember for the Barcelona youth product.

Sam Kerr (Chelsea, Australia)

90 minutes, 1 goal, 4 shot assists, 17 touches in penalty area (9-0 v Bristol City)

A seasoned flagbearer for Australian women’s football on the international stage, Matildas skipper Kerr is now part of an exceptionally talented Chelsea squad, and she celebrated her 27th birthday in style during a 9-0 league win over Bristol City on Sunday.

Kerr caused headaches from start to finish, playing her part in countless attacks and getting her reward with an 86th-minute goal; her second in as many matches in the new season.

Hiroki Sakai (Olympique Marseille, Japan)

90 minutes, 11 duels won, 8 interceptions (1-0 v Paris Saint-Germain)

Up against a front three of Neymar, Angle Di Maria and Pablo Sarabia, the 30-year-old from Kashiwa turned in a terrific display to help Marseille end a 20-match winless run over the Ligue 1 champions.

In a match that featured no less than five red cards, Sakai was calm, controlled, exceptionally hard to beat and showed why he has come to be so well regarded in the south of France.

Kaveh Rezaei (Charleroi, IR Iran)

79 minutes, 1 goal, 2 successful dribbles (2-0 v Zulte-Waregem)

Clearly enjoying life in Belgium, the Iranian forward provided his third goal of the new season, calmly finishing off a lung-bursting counter-attacking move to help Charleroi claim a confident 2-0 win.

The 28-year-old has scored in three of his last four matches, with Charleroi winning five in a row to hold a perfect record and top spot in Belgian First Division A mid-way through September.

Bassel Jradi (Hajduk Split, Lebanon)

90 minutes, 24 duels won, 10 successful dribbles (1-2 v Dinamo Zagreb)

He wasn’t on the winning side, but Lebanon midfielder Jradi was just about everywhere else in a terrific midfield display in Croatia’s ‘Eternal Derby’.

The 27-year-old continued his impressive recent form, producing a performance which was effective both offensively and defensively, as Hajduk fell narrowly short in the battle of two of the country’s biggest clubs.

Wu Lei (Espanyol, China PR)

77 minutes, 1 goal, 92% pass accuracy (3-0 v Albacete)

Espanyol may have been relegated to the second tier of Spanish football, but they showed they are strong candidates to bounce straight back to La Liga, with Wu Lei playing a starring role in a 3-0 win over Albacete.

The Chinese star turned in a terrific display, barely putting a foot wrong on the ball, and slamming Espanyol’s second goal into the roof of the net to make it 2-0 in the 25th minute.

Justin Meram (Real Salt Lake, Iraq)

64 minutes, 1 goal, 14 duels won (3-0 v Los Angeles FC)

A Major Soccer League veteran for the best part of the decade, the Iraqi international underlined his lasting quality in Real Salt Lake’s impressive home win against LAFC on Thursday, showing great poise to score with an improvised close-range chip in the 47th-minute.

The goal was the highlight of a strong overall performance by Meram, but unfortunately for Real Salt Lake it would be followed by a 5-0 defeat to Colorado Rapids on Sunday.

Poll ends at 16:00 (UTC +8) on September 19.

Photos: AFP, Olympique Marseille, Zulte-Waregem, Hajduk Split

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