As far as young defenders in Asia are concerned, there are very few who are better than Kashima Antlers' Naomichi Ueda. The 22-year-old has been a regular fixture for the Japanese outfit and continued to do favours to his burgeoning reputation by coming up with a solid performance on the continental stage for his team in March.
Having helped his side keep a cleansheet against A-League side Brisbane Roar, he also scored a goal at the other end to help his team notch a comfortable but crucial victory on matchday three in the Asian FootballConfederation (AFC) Champions League Group E.
He has a lot of experience at youth level and has represented Japan in all the junior categories and even played a huge part in Japan's victorious campaign in the2016 AFC U-23 Championship in Qatar.
That has seen him become a regular fixture in the Kashima Antlers starting XI which reached the final of the 2016 Club World Cup last December. As the club set history by becoming the first Asian team to do so, Ueda was doing no harm to his standing as an exciting talent. So much so that he went on to describe himself as a crocodile before the final against Real Madrid which they lost in extra-time.
On 14th March, though, against Brisbane Roar, he was in his element, thwarting attacks efficiently and making a nuisance of himself in the opposition area during set-pieces.
It was from such a situation that he bundled home Antlers' second goal from a corner. While that proved valuable in a 3-0 win, it was his defensive contributions that were more significant.
Kashima Antlers were coming off an unexpected loss to Muangthong United in the previous matchday and badly needed a victory on the night. Having made an impressive four clearances and two interceptions for his team, it is safe to say Ueda stepped up when it mattered.
It is no wonder that Naomichi Ueda is the Toyota Young Asian Player for the month of March.