All the focus will be on these players when the tournament kicks off on 5th January.
The AFC Asian Cup 2019 is knocking on the door as the UAE is all set to host the biggest international football tournament of the continent. Preparations are already underway as players look to win the precious piece of silverware for their country.
What makes the competition an exhilarating one is that players from the elite leagues of Europe such as the Bundesliga, Premier League and so on will be a part of it too, as they represent their respective countries. Countries like Japan, South Korea and Australia, in particular, have the most number of players from European leagues, but there are players representing other countries too. Let’s take a look at the top 10 of these players who will be a part of the tournament.
10. Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Brighton & Hove Albion)
A lot of speculation rolled over Premier League side Brighton and Hove Albion’s new signing Jahanbakhsh from Dutch club AZ Alkmaar in the summer of 2018. Having netted 21 goals in the Eredivisie last season, the Iranian became the first Asian to be the top scorer of a major European league.
Watch: Jahanbaksh will be an integral part of Iran’s attack in the tournament
It was an excellent season for the 25-year-old, as with his 21 goals and 12 assists, he led the Cheeseheads to a third-place finish, thus ensuring a qualifying round spot in the UEFA Europa League this season.
Since moving to the Amex Stadium in July, Jahanbakhsh has made 10 appearances for the Seagulls in the league under Chris Hughton. Having played before in two editions of the FIFA World Cup and also in the 2015 Asian Cup, the attacking midfielder will be a key man for Iran in the UAE.
9. Yoshinori Muto (Newcastle United)
After spending three seasons at Bundesliga side Mainz, Muto arrived at newly-promoted side Newcastle United in the summer of 2018. The Japanese forward came onto the radar of the Magpies after his impressive performances back in Germany.
Watch: Muto was part of the Japan side that reached the knockout stages of the 2018 World Cup in Russia
The forward has appeared seven times so far in the Premier League under Rafa Benitez and also netted his first goal for the club during the 3-2 loss at Manchester United. The 26-year-old was also part of the national team squad which made it to the knockout stages of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
8. Tom Rogic (Celtic)
Rogic has been a key part of Celtic this season so far under Brendan Rodgers, as he has already registered three goals in the Scottish Premiership in his 12 appearances. The Australian midfielder has scored 23 goals in his 98 appearances for the club, for whom he has been playing since the last seven years.
Watch: Rogic has scored eight goals for the Socceroos so far
7. Ki Sung-yueng (Newcastle United)
29-year-old Ki has been capped 109 times by South Korea and will continue to lead them when he plays his third Asian Cup in January. The former Swansea City star has also played three FIFA World Cups previously and was the Player of the Year for the Welsh club in 2015.
Watch: The midfielder is also the captain of South Korea
Since then Ki has played for Sunderland and is currently playing for Benitez’s Newcastle side. The midfielder is a passing maestro and his technique and superb shooting ability make him a player to watch out for in the upcoming Asian Cup.
6. Takumi Minamino (Red Bull Salzburg)
The Japanese forward played alongside Diego Forlan during his time with J-League side Cerezo Osaka and moved to Austrian Bundesliga side Red Bull Salzburg in 2015. Since then, Minamino has netted 51 goals for the club in 107 appearances in all competitions. The 23-year-old was a part of the squad which played the Europa League semi-final last season against Marseille.
Watch: Minamino has been in amazing form for the Japan lately
The in-form forward has scored 10 goals so far in as many as 21 appearances across all competitions this season and will be a major player for the Japanese in their quest for Asian Cup glory.
5. Yuya Osako (Werder Bremen)
Yet another Japanese player playing in a European top flight, Osako has made eight appearances this season for Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga and has scored two goals in the process. The forward also registered a goal in the DFB Pokal, when he opened the scoring for the River Islanders in a 6-1 rout of Wormatia Worms.
Watch: Osako scored in the 2018 FIFA World Cup
The former FC Koln and Kashima Antlers forward has scored a total of 93 goals in his 10-year club career so far. Moreover, the 29-year-old has also scored 10 goals in his 37 caps for his country and was also part of the Japanese team at the World Cup in Russia.
4. Amir Abedzadeh (Maritimo)
Amir probably may not be playing at a much-known club, but the Iranian goalkeeper is simply one to look out for in the Asian Cup. Playing for Portuguese outfit Maritimo, the 25-year-old has been in fine form this season, keeping four clean-sheets in six games across the league and the league cup.
Watch: Abedzadeh has been in prime form for both club and country lately
Interestingly, Amir is the youth product of English club Brentford and has also trained with Premier League giants Tottenham Hotspur back in 2011. He was a part of the 2018 World Cup squad and made his debut for the national team against Uzbekistan.
3. Sardar Azmoun (Rubin Kazan)
Sardar Azmoun is another Iranian who makes the list of top players as he is the fifth all-time top scorer of the country with 23 international goals. Sardar became the first Iranian to play in the Russian Premier League when he signed for Rubin Kazan in 2012. Since then, the 23-year-old has also played for another Russian outfit Rostov and has till now netted 33 goals overall.
Watch: Azmoun is the fifth all-time top scorer of Iran
In 2015, the forward was heavily linked with Everton and Stoke City over a potential transfer which never actually happened. In the following season, Sardar once again drew attention from various European giants including Arsenal, Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund with his impressive performances. The striker will pose a huge threat for opposition defences during the upcoming Asian Cup.
2. Matthew Ryan (Brighton & Hove Albion)
The Australian shot-stopper has been one of the key players in the Brighton & Hove Albion squad since last season. His goalkeeping excellence has earned him a lot of plaudits from pundits and is a fan-favourite at the Amex Stadium.
Watch: Ryan was named the Best Goalkeeper at the 2015 Asian Cup
During the last edition of the Asian Cup in 2015, Ryan won the award for Best Goalkeeper of the tournament along with the title.
The 26-year-old played all 38 games in the Premier League last season and kept 10 clean-sheets in the process. This campaig too, he has kept three clean-sheets and has gone on to make a total of 60 saves and produce almost 200 accurate long-balls till now. He will be a huge player for the Socceroos in their bid to defend the crown.
1. Heung-min Son (Tottenham Hotspur)
Spurs’ in-form forward Son is probably the deadliest one for the defenders to face in the Asian Cup. The 26-year-old has recently picked up form scoring six goals in his last five games for Mauricio Pochettino’s side. Out of those six goals, four have come from his last two games when he scored outstanding braces.
Watch: Son is arguably the most high-profile player at the 2019 Asian Cup
The South Korean international is a key player for Mauricio Pochettino’s side. The former Hamburger and Bayer Leverkusen star has earned a lot of praise from various pundits for his solid performances for Spurs over the past couple of years.
Son has been capped 74 times for South Korea since 2010 and has netted 23 goals so far. His natural pace, immaculate finishing skills and excellent counter-attacking ability make him a complete attacker. The Reds will be relying on Son in their quest for the Asian Cup title.