The magazine placed Hai next to world superstars like Neymar and Manuel Neuer in its special September issue.
“All Vietnamese fans are wondering why one of the best attacking midfielders in Asia has not yet moved to Europe, and where he will end up when he does eventually go,” World Soccer wrote.
World Soccer 500 is an annual list of the globe’s most talked-about players, the most newsworthy players who, by definition, are the most important. The magazine compiled its list by choosing key players by league, starting with 50 each for the leading English, German, and Spanish leagues, 40 for France and Italy, between 15 and 25 for middle-ranking leagues, and ending with between five and 10 for smaller equivalents. It then added players who proved important for their national sides and in their respective regions.
The magazine, established in 1960, also included three other Southeast Asian players into the list – midfielder Chanathip Songkrasin, striker Suphanat Mueanta (both from Thailand) and Filipino goalkeeper Neil Etheridge.
Hai is the only Vietnamese player to make the list. He finished second with the U23 team at AFC U23 Championship 2018, won the AFF Cup trophy with the national team in the same year and the gold medal with the U22 team at the 31st Southeast Asian Games in 2019. This is also the second time Hai has made the list, the first having been in 2018.
Nguyen Quang Hai stands next to Neymar in World Soccer’s special September edition. Photo courtesy of World Soccer.
In this issue, World Soccer allocated two pages to Vietnamese football.
“Vietnam loves football and loves the national team. The Golden Dragons have slowly become the number one in Southeast Asia,” it wrote.
Besides midfielder Hai, World Soccer also mentioned left-back Doan Van Hau, one of the most promising talents in Vietnamese football at present.
“There are talented players such as Nguyen Quang Hai, a 23-year-old attacking midfielder regarded as the best in Southeast Asia and one of the best on the continent, and Doan Van Hau, recently on loan at Dutch side Heerenveen, and the only player so far to play in Europe. With many more coming through some of the country’s excellent academies, it is no surprise that the national team is going from strength to strength.”
Hau has returned to Vietnam after the Dutch club and Hanoi FC failed to agree on terms to further the contract.
Vietnam ceased all football competitions since late July due to the new Covid-19 outbreak. The national team, including Hai and Hau, will gather for training on August 18 to prepare for World Cup 2022 second round qualifiers in October, with Vietnam leading group G on 11 points after five games.