We are at the halfway mark of the Asian Cup and we have seen some eye-catching performances from Asia’s premier footballers.
With the Hyundai A-League in hiatus to cater for the continental showpiece, we spotlight five Asian Cup stars who could potentially make their way down under.
There could be others too as the Cup unfolds, but we reckon these five would be a great start.
Omar Abdulrahman (UAE)
Omar Abdulrahman has been a standout (and not just for his impressive, Musti Amini inspired, afro) for surprise-packets United Arab Emirates in their opening two group matches.
He was instrumental in the Emiratis’ 4-1 win over Qatar before producing a man-of-the match performance in a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Bahrain.
His exquisitely-weighted ball helped teammate Ali Mabkhout score the tournament’s fastest ever goal against the Bahraini’s, just 14 seconds into the match.
The 23-year-old plies his trade in his homeland with Al-Ain but has not dismissed the possibility of a move to the A-League in the future.
“I am very happy for this [attention] but my goal at the moment is to do our best for this competition," he told reporters after the Bahrain win.
"But if the coach wants me to come to play in Australia I will not say no."
Perhaps a season in the rough and tough A-League would be the ideal entrée for a European sojourn? And the summer heat surely wouldn’t worry him either.
Sydney FC skipper Alex Brosque played with Abdulrahman at Al-Ain and labelled the midfielder as one of the most talented players he’s ever played with.
"He's incredible. He keeps the ball on a string, he's always in control and like I said, technically ... I've never seen someone do with a football what he can do,” Brosque told the Sydney Morning Herald.
"In the two seasons I was there, I got maybe 24 to 25 goals [in all competitions] and he would have to given me at least 15 of them.”
Ashkan Dejaga (Iran)
Undoubtedly one of the most talented players at the Asian Cup, Ashkan Dejaga would an incredible coup for the Hyundai A-League.
The 28-year-old currently plays his football with Al-Arabi in the cashed-up Qatari Stars-League after spending the last three years in the English Premier League with Fulham.
The attacking midfielder or winger also spent eight years in the German Bundesliga with Hertha Berlin and Wolfburg.
Dejaga has been impressive in Iran’s wins over Bahrain and Qatar to start the Asian Cup, providing the decisive assist in the win over The Maroon.
Iran has a huge following in Australia with the Persian giants attracting 17,000 fans in Melbourne for their opening match before almost 23,000 turned up to see their win over Qatar in Sydney.
Interestingly, though born in Tehran, Dejaga represented Germany at youth-level before nominating to play for Iran, making his international debut in 2012.
Dejaga’s former Fulham teammate Damien Duff has been excellent for Melbourne City FC this season.
Could the Irishman tempt the Iranian downunder?
Hamza Al Dardour (Jordan)
Jordanian striker Hamza Al Dardour produced the performance of the tournament to date with a four-goal haul against newcomers Palestine.
The 23-year-old showcased his quality with a finishing master-class, including a stunning solo effort which saw him power past four Palestinian defenders.
Amazingly, Al Dardour was an unused substitute in Jordan’s opening group match against Iraq, which they ultimately lost 1-0.
But his man-of-the-match performance against Palestine illustrated his huge potential and Jordanian coach Ray Wilkins was effervescent in his praise of the striker post-match.
"I think you saw today what his assets are. He's got blistering pace, and when in front of goal, he'll stick it in the back of the net,” Wilkins was quoted as saying.
“He's very composed. His pace will scare people because he is that quick. I'm sure he could do whatever he desires to do, to be perfectly honest."
Al Dardour plays his football in Saudi Arabia with Al-Khaleej.
Server Djeparov (Uzbekistan)
Uzbekistan Captain Server Djeparov is off contract at Korean club Seongnam FC and has admitted he is open to offers from the Hyundai A-League.
The 32-year-old formerly played with Western Sydney Wanderers defender Brendan Hamill and says he is familiar with the Australian domestic competition.
“He spoke to me a lot of times (about) Australia how it’s here, football and life – I know everything,” Djeparov told the Courier Mail.
“If they have offers for me, I can (look at) them.”
The experienced attacking midfielder has been crowned Asian Footballer of the year on two occasions (2008, 2011) and showed he still oozes class with an assured performance against a plucky North Korea in Uzbekistan’s opening match.
With over 100 caps and 23 goals for his nation, Djeparov would be a more than handy addition to a Hyundai A-League outfit.
Younis Mahmoud (Iraq)
Iraq captain and legend Younis Mahmoud is reportedly on the radar of Sydney FC and is currently without a club after being released by Saudi outfit Al Ahli.
The 31-year-old’s friendship with Sky Blues star Ali Abbas has apparently opened the lines of communication, though the striker is keeping his options open.
"I've had a lot of contract offers from Qatari league, also from China," Mahmoud told www.afcasiancup.com.
"But I was with the Olympic team at the Asian Games and did not have enough time to make a decision. My friend, Ali Abbas of Sydney FC, said Sydney were interested in signing me.
"I think after the Asian Cup, I'll sit down with the coaching staff and decide my future in football.”
Mahmoud scored the decisive goal in the 2007 Asian Cup final against Saudi Arabia and was named the tournament’s most valuable player.
And a legend like Mahmoud would surely attract a good number of the football-mad Iraqi fans around the country.
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