The elite clubs in Asia are all set to embark on a journey to be crowned the kings of the continent. While many will fall by the wayside, the latest edition of Asia’s premier continental club competition is sure to witness some of the most promising talents in the continent vying to hog the limelight.
Goal picks out one of the most promising of the lot - Dostonbek Khamdamov (FC Bunyodkor) - as one to watch out for in the 2017 edition of the AFC Champions League.
Khamdamov's rise to prominence
The 20-year-old Uzbek shot to prominence after the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand in 2015. His exploits at the tournament did not just see him finish as the third-highest goalscorer with three strikes but also propelled Uzbekistan to the quarterfinals where they were beaten by Senegal.
His best performance was in the round of 16 fixture against Austria where he bagged a brace, showing that he had the big game presence to mix-in with the brightest talents from the world and still come to stand out.
AFC Young Player of the Year 2015: There wasn’t much surprise when the FC Bunyodkor forward was named the AFC Youth Player of the Year 2015. Not only did he sparkle at the Under-20 World Cup, but also he had fast established himself as a starter in the FC Bunyodkor lineup after progressing through their youth ranks.
At a tender age of 19, he was already deciding games for the Uzbek team and notched up 10 goals in about 26 appearances in the Uzbek Professional League in 2015. He also led Bunyodkor to two successive cup Uzbek Cup finals.
He followed that up with two goals in the AFC Champions League group stages last season for the Uzbek team, though they failed to win a game and crashed out. But Khamdamov has maintained his form in the league, helping Bunyodkor to a second-placed finish in the league.
What to expect?
The 5’10” forward has a left foot worth dying for. He can play all across the front three and being left-footed, has been often deployed on the right wing by Russian coach Sergey Lushan who has given Khamdamov the license to cut in and put his deadly left foot to good use. He is equally comfortable on the left wing as well and is technically gifted.
He also has a good eye for goals and is adequately pacey. He is well built when compared to young Asian players and can be difficult to muscle off the ball.
All in all, this promises to be a crucial campaign for Khamdamov who has been dubbed ‘the best youngster in Asia’ by several sections of the media. FC Bunyodkor, who find themselves in a tough group with Al Ahli (KSA), Zob Ahan (IRA)and Al Ain (UAE), will be hoping that their young star belies his tender age and help them progress to the knockout stages of the competition.