Aaron Mooy has had superb year, but Son Heung-Min worthy of AFC award

Aaron Mooy, Son Heung-Min and Shinji Kagawa are finalists in the 2017 AFC Asian International Player of the Year Award, which will be announced in Wednesday night's ceremony in Bangkok.

The trio are headed to next year's World Cup with their respective nations, but who is most deserving for the prize that rewards the best Asian performer, beyond AFC competitions?

We weigh up the pros and cons of each finalist.

Shinji Kagawa


The midfielder may not quite have hit the heights of his pre-Manchester United spell at Borussia Dortmund, but he has shown some of the old signs after his return to the German giants. His chipped goal from the edge of the area -- while on the run -- against Augsburg in September was as delicious as it gets. Some of the assists and passing also recall those heady days of 2010 and 2011.

The 28-year-old has also been part of the Japan squad that qualified for a sixth successive World Cup with a game to spare.


Throughout the year, he just has not played enough for club or country to be considered as a front runner. Kagawa has started just 13 league games in 2017 for Borussia Dortmund. The team have not exactly had a vintage year, and while there have been some sparkling moments, there have not been enough.

There is also the fact that Kagawa has fallen out of favour somewhat with the national team. Coach Vahid Halilhodzic dropped the Kobe Kid for the November prestige friendlies against Brazil and Belgium, so he is no longer an automatic start for the Samurai Blue. As things stand, Kagawa should make the squad for Russia, but won't be taking anything for granted.

Aaron Mooy


There were some eyebrows raised when one of Australia's hottest properties joined Huddersfield Town in the English second tier in 2016. The decision has been more vindicated.

Not only did the midfielder play his part in promotion -- more than his part as he was player of the year -- but he has taken to life in the Premier League with the kind of relish that Australian bowlers have taken to the England cricket team. He has established himself as a player to watch, and, if current form continues, then the former Melbourne City man is going to be on the shopping list of bigger clubs than Huddersfield.

At the same time in 2017, he has been criss-crossing Asia in an epic qualification campaign that saw the Socceroos become the 31st team to be confirmed for the 2018 World Cup.


2017 has gone better than expected, so it's hard to find negatives. What may count against Mooy is that his time in the Premier League is still in its infancy. Australia also struggled to make Russia 2018, and rarely impressed in 2017.

Son Heung-Min


The South Korean has well and truly established himself as a star of the Premier League and played a major part in Tottenham Hotspur's excellent 2016-17 season as they finished second behind Chelsea. Son's 14 league goals, many of which were of the spectacular variety, made him a favourite of the Spurs faithful.

The performances have continued this season. Son's consistency has improved leaps and bounds. And he has certainly helped out as Spurs won a tough group in the UEFA Champions League.

The 25-year-old attack was heavily involved in the national team qualifying for a ninth successive World Cup. His two goals against Colombia in November removed some of the pessimism that had been surrounding the Taeguk Warriors.


While Son has become a valued member of the Spurs squad', and enjoys an excellent reputation in the international arena, he could start more games.

And while the Koreans qualified for the World Cup, Son has struggled at times to replicate his club form when wearing the famous red shirt of his country. That may be more down to tactics, selections and coaches not being sure of the player's best position.

But fans at home would love to be treated more often to the version of Son that Spurs supporters see. Winning the prize in 2015 may diminish his chances slightly.

The winner:

You never know what is going to happen, but this is likely to be a battle between Mooy and Son. Kagawa has just not played enough for club or country.

Son is the favourite. He has three advantages over his Australian rival. One is that he has been playing in the Premier League for the full year, rather than for three or four months. Second, he belongs to a much bigger club. And, third, he has been shining in the UEFA Champions League, the highest level of club football in the world.