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10 signings set to make an impact

Wednesday, February 27, 2019
10 signings (3)

Kuala Lumpur: Ahead of the 2019 AFC Champions League group stage, we look at 10 new signings who could make the difference for their respective teams.

From the likes of household names in Keisuke Honda of Melbourne Victory and Bafetimbi Gomis at Al Hilal to prolific scorers like Al Ahli's Djaniny and Buriram United's Diogo, there will be plenty of new stars set to shine on Asian club football's grandest stage in this year's continental competition.

While the above have already spent several months at their new clubs, or previously appeared in the AFC Champions League, we look at some of the most recent signings and reveal what they could bring to their teams at the 2019 edition.

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Sebastian Giovinco (Al Hilal)

Part of the Italy team that reached the 2012 UEFA Euro final, Sebastian Giovinco made the switch from MLS side Toronto FC to Al Hilal in January and instantly delivered, marking his debut with a goal.

Boasting excellent vision and gifted with an elite level technical skill set, the 32-year-old compensates for his short stature with pace and a clinical eye for goal. After being named the MLS's Golden Boot and MVP in 2015 Giovinco solidified his legend status at Toronto with numerous individual awards and goal-scoring milestones.

????? ?????? ????? ?#??????? ???? ?????? ??????? ?? ??????? 80
?????? 3 : 1 ????????


— ???? ??? (@dawriplusksa) February 12, 2019

The former Juventus striker will partner French forward Bafetimbi Gomis up front and the duo will be crucial for the Riyadh-based side’s chances of capturing the ever-elusive AFC Champions League title.

Reza Ghoochannejhad (Sydney FC)

Reza Ghoochannejhad swapped Cyprus for Australia when he joined Sydney FC from APOEL in early 2019, and the striker became the first Iranian international to play in the A-League when he made his debut earlier in February.

The 31-year-old has spent the majority of his career in Belgium and the Netherlands, and boasts impressive scoring stats from each country, while he has also scored goals for the Islamic Republic of Iran at the FIFA World Cup and AFC Asian Cup.

?? | Catch @gh_reza's exclusive first interview as he linked up with his Sky Blue team mates on Thursday at Sydney FC HQ!

Will he feature on Sunday at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium? Find out...#SydneyIsSkyBlue #ComeWithUs

— Sydney FC (@SydneyFC) January 31, 2019

Ghoochannejhad has previous Asian club competition experience from when he played two games in the 2014 AFC Cup during a short stint with Kuwait SC, but the 2019 AFC Champions League marks his maiden appearance in the Continent’s biggest club tournament.

Shoya Nakajima (Al Duhail)

Shoya Nakajima was unfortunate to miss out on Japan's run to the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 final, having withdrawn from the squad with an injury just days before the start of the tournament. The 24-year-old recovered from his injury and subsequently sealed a move from Portugal's Portimonense to Qatar's Al Duhail.

Capable of playing on either flank or centrally behind the striker, Nakajima's blend of pace and trickery will be key for Al Duhail's attacking plans as the Japanese international is tasked with replacing Korean playmaker Nam Tae-hee who departed for fellow Qatari side Al Sadd.


???? ???????? Shoya Nakajima#?????? #AlDuhail

— ???? ?????? ??????? (@DuhailSC) February 16, 2019

Nakajima came through the ranks at Tokyo Verdy where he made his J.League debut as a teenager in 2012. After leading Japan to the 2016 AFC U23 Championship, where he was selected as MVP, Nakajima joined Portuguese side Portimonense, first on loan then making a permanent transfer in 2018. In total, he scored 15 goals in 42 games before swapping Portugal for Qatar.

Leandro Damiao (Kawasaki Frontale)

Adding firepower to a Kawasaki Frontale team that already finished as top scorers in the 2018 J.League, Brazilian striker Leandro Damiao joined the club after spending the last year and a half with Internacional in his homeland.

Damiao marked his competitive debut for Kawasaki in style as he scored the only goal of the game in the Japanese Super Cup victory over Urawa Red Diamonds as the 29-year-old immediately endeared himself to his new set of fans.?


Um dia para ficar na memória para sempre!!!
Campe?o fuji xerox super cup 2019 !!!
Parabéns a todos jogadores e torcida pelo grande jogo.
Que possamos conquistar muito mais esse ano juntos!!!
@kawasaki_frontale ????????????

— Leandro Damiao (@LeandroDamiaoo) February 16, 2019

While Kawasaki produced another great season at home last year, their form on the Continent was poor as they crashed out of the AFC Champions League at the group stage without winning a game. After the acquisition of Damiao, the J.League champions will be looking to go deeper into the competition.

Mehdi Torabi (Persepolis)

Last year's finalists Persepolis resumed their transfer activity this winter after serving a two-window ban. Having lost the likes of Vahid Amiri and Farshad Ahmadzadeh in that period, the Tehran club boosted their attacking midfield options with the signing of Mehdi Torabi from Saipa.

The 24-year-old is one of the most exciting talents in Iranian football. His bursts of pace from midfield will offer Persepolis a new dimension, and his combination of vision and shooting ability allows him to carve out scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates.


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Torabi spent his entire career at Saipa prior to joining Persepolis. He made his debut in 2012 and after impressing in the Iranian Pro League, he received his first Team Melli call-up in 2015, scoring on his international debut against Uzbekistan. The versatile winger has since racked up 25 caps and was part of the IR Iran squad in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, although he did not get an opportunity to play in Russia.

Marouane Fellaini (Shandong Luneng)

Belgian international Marouane Fellaini arrived at Shandong Luneng at the end of January after spending five and a half seasons with Manchester United, where he won the FA Cup and UEFA Europa League.

The 31-year-old is known for his ability in the air and regularly causes havoc in opposition penalty areas, and it was he who headed home his country’s crucial equaliser against Japan at last year’s FIFA World Cup in what was one of the matches of the tournament as Belgium went on to finish third.

Ready to start a new adventure .....

— Marouane Fellaini (@Fellaini) February 2, 2019

Also good on the ball and at breaking up play, Fellaini will be an imposing presence in the Shandong midfield in their return to the competition. After more than a decade in England, the move to China represents his first foray outside of Europe, and he will be among the biggest names to compete in this year’s AFC Champions League.

Medhi Benatia (Al Duhail)

After more than a decade in European football, defender Medhi Benatia left Italian champions Juventus to join Qatari champions Al Duhail at the start of 2019. The 31-year-old was coach Rui Faria's first signing at the Doha-based club and will be expected to bring bags of experience to Al Duhail.

In a glittering C.V., the centre-back also includes the likes of Marseille, Udinese, Roma and Bayern Munich amongst his former employers and the man, who many considered to be among the best defenders in Serie A, is set to significantly boost an Al Duhail side that reached last year's AFC Champions League quarter-finals.


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Pour des raisons personnelles je n’étais pas très présent ces derniers temps! Je suis très heureux de poursuivre ma carrière à @duhailsc dans le plus grand club d’Asie et du Qatar. Une nouvelle vie, une nouvelle aventure, de nouveaux objectifs et de nouveaux challenges à relever. J’en profite aussi pour féliciter mes nouveaux coéquipiers qui ont été sacrés Champions d’Asie avec l’équipe nationale du Qatar ????

A post shared by Medhi Benatia (@m.benatia5) on

Usually it is prolific goal-scoring strikers or dazzling midfield playmakers that quicken the pulse, but the immensely talented Benatia, who Al Duhail will look to build the backline around, could prove to be one of the canniest signings of the 2019 AFC Champions League.

Leandro Velazquez (Johor Darul Ta'zim)

Ahead of Johor Darul Ta’zim’s AFC Champions League debut, the Malaysian side announced the return of a club legend: Leandro Velazquez, who scored the most famous goal in their history when his strike was enough to see off Tajikistan’s FC Istiklol 1-0 in the 2015 AFC Cup final.

Velazquez was not in southern Malaysia long and, indeed, scored most of his goals for Johor’s reserve side before being promoted to the first team. After one season, the attacking midfielder left for Colombia and he has spent the years since in the South American country and Mexico.?


?? He's already written his name into the club's history books by scoring the winning goal to clinch the AFC Cup.

Will @OfficialJohor's new signing, Leandro Velázquez do the same in the #ACL2019?

— AFC Champions League (@TheAFCCL) February 22, 2019

Now 29, Velazquez returns to a side that has gone on to dominate Malaysian football in recent years. The Argentine has already shown he is the man for the big occasion and Johor’s AFC Champions League bow at the home of the champions – Kashima Antlers – is exactly that.

Arslanmyrat Amanov (Lokomotiv)

Tashkent rivals Pakhtakor, who qualified via the play-offs, have unquestionably been the busier in the transfer market with the signings of Uzbekistan internationals Marat Bikmaev, Dostonbek Khamdamov and Odiljon Xamrobekov, however it is Lokomotiv's transfer of Turkmenistan captain Arslanmyrat Amanov that could be the most intriguing.

The 28-year-old hit the headlines as recently as last month when his astonishing strike gave his national team the lead against eventual runners-up Japan in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, and he is now set to follow up the appearance at Asia's biggest national team competition with an opportunity to shine at continental club football's highest stage.


An absolute stunner from Arslanmurat Amanov to give Turkmenistan the lead! Oh, some goal this! Best of the @afcasiancup so far!#AsianCup2019 #BringItAll #JPNvTKM

— FOX Sports LIVE! (@FSAsiaLive) January 9, 2019

Amanov has previously seen action in AFC competitions with appearances at the now defunct AFC President's Cup in 2008, 2009 and 2010 while he also turned out amongst his countrymen in the AFC Cup in 2017 for Ashgabat's Altyn Asyr.

Luong Xuan Truong (Buriram United)

Part of a generation of players that is taking Vietnam to greater heights, Luong Xuan Truong joined Buriram United on a season-long loan deal from Hoang Anh Gia Lai and is now set to make his AFC Champions League debut.

The 23-year-old midfielder enjoyed a superb 2018 in which he skippered his country to a runners-up finish at the AFC U23 Championship in China, and then was part of the squad that won the AFF (ASEAN Football Federation) Cup towards the end of the year.?


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OFFICIAL “????????????” ??????? ????? ??? ????? ????????? 23 ?? ???????????????????? ??? ??? ????? ????? ?????????????????? ?????????????? ?????????????????????????????????? ????????????????? 2019 ????? ??? ????? ???????????????????????????????????? ???????????????????? ?????? ??? 2018 ???????????????????? ?????????? 8 ?????????? ???????????????? ??? 2019 ????????? ???????????????????? 28 ?????? 1995 ??????????????????????????? ???????????????????? 19 ?? ????????????????????????????? 23 ?? ???????????????????? ????????????? 31 ??? ??? 1 ????? ???????????? 23 ?? ???????????????????????? ??? ????? ????? ???? 2015 ????????? 2016 ????? ?????? ???????? ??????????????? ??????????????? ??????????????????????????????????? ???????????????????? ??????????????????? ????? ??? ????? ??????????????????????????? ????? ?????? ????? ?????????????????????? 2017 ??????????????????? ??? ????? ????? ????????????????????? 2018 – 2019 ??????????????????????????????????????????????? ????? “????????????” ????????? ???????? ???????????????? ???????????????????? 21 ???????????????????????????????? 2019 . . . . . #BuriramUnited #BRUTD #GU12 #LuongXuanTruong

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An excellent passer of the ball with fine vision, Xuan Truong – who also helped Vietnam reach the AFC Asian Cup quarter-finals in early 2019 – has previously spent time in Korea Republic’s K League with Incheon United and Gangwon FC.

Now that you have read about 10 of the most exciting new signings set to appear on the AFC Champions League stage in the upcoming tournament, let us know who you think will perform the best by casting your vote below!

Who will have the biggest impact?

Sebastian Giovinco
Reza Goochennejhad
Shoya Nakajima
Leandro Damiao
Mehdi Torabi
Marouane Fellaini
Mehdi Benatia
Leandro Velazquez
Arslanmyrat Amanov
Luong Xuan Truong
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Photos: Getty Images

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