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Nov 18, 2012

Kagawa heads Asian award shortlist

Manchester United playmaker Shinji Kagawa is favourite to pick up the inaugural Asian Football Confederation (AFC) International Player of the Year award, with the Japan star named on the three-man shortlist alongside compatriot Yuto Nagatomo and Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.

The Asian Footballer of the Year award, like its African equivalent, was previously open to any Asian player regardless of where in the world they played their football. But the traditional prize is now only open to those plying their trade on the Asian continent, while the new International Player of the Year gong can be won by those impressing elsewhere.

Kagawa, 23, has enjoyed a memorable 2012 having inspired Borussia Dortmund to a second successive Bundesliga title, with his performances in Germany leading to a high-profile summer move to Manchester United. At international level, he has been part of the Japan side that comfortably tops World Cup qualifying Group B.

His Blue Samurai team-mate Nagotomo, 26, has established himself as a mainstay at Inter Milan after becoming the first Japanese player to ever represent the Nerazzurri, while 40-year-old Schwarzer, who has been one of the English Premier League's most consistent goalkeepers for the past 15 years, won his 100th international cap for Australia this year.

The winner will be announced at the AFC awards night in Kuala Lumpur on November 29, along with the Asian Footballer of the Year.

South Korea winger and AFC Champions League winner Lee Keun-Ho, Australia captain Lucas Neill, Guangzhou Evergrande defender Zheng Zhi, and Iranian pair Ali Karimi and Mohsen Bengar are on the five-man shortlist for the Asian Footballer of the Year.

The Women's Player of the Year will also be decided, with Japanese trio Aya Miyama, Homare Sawa and Yuki Ogimi nominated.

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