Son Heung-min wins 5th consecutive Best Footballer in Asia award

Son Heung-min KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images

Tottenham ace Son Heung-min has been rewarded for another fine year by winning a fifth consecutive Best Footballer in Asia award -- and 7th overall in the prize's nine-year history.

The 29-year-old, who scored 17 goals in all competition at club level in 2021, was particularly influential for Spurs in the earlier stages of the ongoing campaign in the absence of Harry Kane, who was initially out of the squad having failed to force a move to fellow Premier League outfit Manchester City.

Son also continued to play a pivotal role for South Korea with four goals in eight matches, helping the Taegeuk Warriors make an unbeaten start after six games of the third and final round of Asian qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup as they remain on course to qualify for the tournament for a 10th consecutive time.

The Best Footballer in Asia award, which was first introduced in 2013 and devised as the continent's equivalent to the Ballon d'Or, sees experts from 37 of the Asian Football Confederation's 47 member associations and an additional 13 guest judges cast votes for their top five players of the calendar year, who are accordingly awarded six, four, three, two and one points respectively.

With 31 first-place votes and a total of 242 points, Son was the clear winner in 2021 ahead of Iran's Sardar Azmoun (111 points) and Mehdi Taremi (90 points) of Zenit and Porto respectively.

Saudi Arabia international Salem Al-Dawsari, who helped Al Hilal claim a record fourth AFC Champions League title, finished fourth on 74 points, while the top five was rounded out by Japan's Takehiro Tomiyasu (50 points), who has made an immediate impact since joining Premier League giants Arsenal from Bologna.

The award is not only eligible to players from AFC nations but also foreigners that ply their trade in Asian leagues, which explains the presence of names such as Leandro Damiao of Kawasaki Frontale (12th), Al Hilal marksman Bafetimbi Gomis (13th) and Spanish maestro Andres Iniesta (21st), who is currently playing for Vissel Kobe in Japan.

Son's status as the standout Asian footballer of his generation is further highlighted by the fact that he has now won the award in every year since its second edition apart from 2016, when Shinji Okazaki took home the prize after his role in Leicester's miraculous Premier League triumph.

Best Footballer in Asia 2021 ranking

1. Son Heung-min (South Korea) -- Tottenham: 242 points
2. Sardar Azmoun (Iran) -- Zenit: 111 points
3. Mehdi Taremi (Iran) -- Porto: 90 points
4. Salem Al-Dawsari (Saudi Arabia) -- Al Hilal: 74 points
5. Takehiro Tomiyasu (Japan) -- Bologna/Arsenal: 50 points
6. Kyogo Furuhashi (Japan) -- Vissel Kobe/Celtic: 36 points
7. Akram Afif (Qatar) -- Al Sadd: 23 points
8. Salman Al-Faraj (Saudi Arabia) -- Al Hilal: 19 points*
9. Hwang Hee-chan (South Korea) -- RB Leipzig/Wolves: 19 points*
10. Eldor Shomurodov (Uzbekistan) -- Genoa/Roma: 18 points
11. Takefusa Kubo (Japan) -- Villarreal/Getafe/Mallorca: 16 points
12. Leandro Damiao (Brazil) -- Kawasaki Frontale: 13 points*
13. Bafetimbi Gomis (France) -- Al Hilal: 13 points*
14. Michael Olunga (Kenya) -- Al Duhail: 12 points
15. Wataru Endo (Japan) -- Stuttgart: 11 points
16. Almoez Ali (Qatar) -- Al Duhail: 10 points
17. Ali Mabkhout (United Arab Emirates) -- Al Jazira: 9 points
18. Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Iran) -- Brighton/Feyenoord: 5 points
19. Takumi Minamino (Japan) -- Liverpool: 4 points
20. Martin Boyle (Australia) -- Hibernian: 3 points*
20. Andres Iniesta (Spain) -- Vissel Kobe: 3 points*
22. Igor Coronado (Brazil) -- Sharjah/Al Ittihad: 2 points*
22. Junya Ito (Japan) -- Genk: 2 points*
22. Amir Abedzadeh (Iran) -- Maritimo/Ponferradina: 2 points*
22. Jang Hyun-soo (South Korea) -- Al Hilal: 2 points*
22. Oscar (Brazil) -- Shanghai Port: 2 points*
27. Nguyen Tien Linh (Vietnam) -- Becamex Binh Duong: 2 points
28. Theerathon Bunmathan (Thailand) -- Yokohama F. Marinos: 1 point
28. Hwang In-beom (South Korea) -- Rubin Kazan: 1 point
28. Sunil Chhetri (India) -- Bengaluru: 1 point
28. Dejan Damjanovic (Montenegro) -- Kitchee: 1 point
28. Jaloliddin Masharipov (Uzbekistan) -- Al Nassr/Shabab Al Ahli: 1 point
28. Chanathip Songkrasin (Thailand) -- Consadole Sapporo: 1 point
28. Wu Lei (China) -- Espanyol: 1 point

*In the event of a tie on points, players are ranked according to the number of higher-placed votes they receive unless this is also equal