Matchday 2 of the final phase of 2018 FIFA World Cup kicks off tonight and with some Hyundai A-League clubs still able to add to their squads, here are 10 potential transfer targets in the AFC.
Mika Chunuonsee (Thailand)
Born and raised in Wales, the tidy midfielder played alongside Aaron Ramsey with Cardiff City’s youth team but thanks to his Thai father he was eligible to represent the Land of Smiles. Now with title-chasing Bangkok United, the 27 year-old has developed into a hard-working and intelligent defensive midfielder.
As a reward, he has just broken into the Thai national team. It has been quite a journey but there is still more to come.
Alaa Ali Mhawi (Iraq)
The 20 year-old is fresh from the Rio Olympics. He arrived in Brazil as a little-known right-back but when he left, he had to remember to remove Neymar from his pocket.
That is perhaps something of an exaggeration but the Al-Zawraa man showed his positional sense and discipline time and time again in the goalless draw with the hosts and eventual winners.
Teerasil Dangda (Thailand)
Whenever he is a substitute for his club team Muangthong United, the whole stadium rises as one. Teerasil is perhaps the most popular player in the whole of Thailand and, despite being 28, has had quite a career that included a short spell with Manchester City and then an almost-as-short time with Grasshoppers in Switzerland and Almeria in Spain.
As one of the top strikers in Southeast Asia, he averages a goal every other game in the international stage.
Ali Husni (Iraq)
Showed plenty in Perth last week. When Iraq was playing in the final game of the 2016 Rio Olympics group stage against South Africa, a win would have been enough to take the team to the quarter-finals.
The young Lions of Mesopotamia were dominant but when the coach surprisingly took off the left winger then it wasn’t quite as good. Husni was at the heart of most of the creativity not just from the Iraqis but from the entire pitch. Loves nothing more than the ball at his feet and the defence in front.
Naif Hazazi (Saudi Arabia)
Once known as the ‘Middle Eastern Didier Drogba’, Hazazi burst onto the scene in the middle of the last decade with Saudi powerhouse Al Ittihad and quickly established himself as one of the continent’s top strikers.
Fast, powerful and confident, a cruciate ligament injury in 2009 interrupted his progress and he has not quite managed to hit the same heights again, at least not consistently. On his day however, some of the old explosiveness is still there and he can be deadly.
Omar Abdulrahman (United Arab Emirates)
In action tonight against the Caltex Socceroos, the playmaker is perhaps the hottest property in Asian football, a tag that was enlarged by his performances at the 2015 AFC Asian Cup when he wowed Australian fans wherever he went as he helped the United Arab Emirates into third.
Such skills as the Al Ain man possesses would not come cheap at all but a club breaking the bank for the precious talent would make headlines all around Asia.
Kawin Thamsatchanan (Thailand)
In action against Japan on MD 2, the goalkeeper has been keen to move to Europe for years and there was talk of a tryout with Manchester United floated thanks to the fact that Bryan Robson coached the national team and was impressed with the country’s number one.
There have been some concerns that he may just not have the required height to turn the heads of the big boys. A trip to the A-League may just be what the Muangthong United man needs.
Ali Mabkhout (United Arab Emirates)
Defenders all around Asia know all about the goal-scoring capabilities of the Al Jazira striker who ended up as the top scorer at the 2015 Asian Cup.
The goals have not stopped coming since and the 25 year-old scored eight in the second round of qualification. One of the most dangerous strikers in Asia is approaching his peak at the age of 25.
Taisir Al-Jassim (Saudi Arabia)
Few players in Asia have as much experience on the international stage as the Al Ahli midfielder. Al Jassim made his international debut in 2004 when Saudi Arabia was still qualifying for World Cups and reaching Asian Cup finals on a regular basis.
It is testament to the 32 year-old’s professionalism and will to win that he’s still going and key to his national side.
Yu Kobayashi (Japan)
The hard-working wideman has not been a regular in the Samurai Blue but his increasingly consistent performances for Kawasaki Frontale and his flexibility have caught the attention of coach Vahid Halilhodzic.
He has yet to really find his feet, or the goal, for his country but this World Cup qualification campaign could be the time.