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AFC Champions League (East): 5 new signings who could shine


Doha: With the resumption of the 2020 AFC Champions League (East) drawing ever closer, we profile five new faces who could shape their clubs' fortunes in Qatar this month.

With a lengthy break since the last Continental ties in the East were played on March 4, teams have refreshed and reinforced their squads during the eight-month hiatus.

Among them are former Premier League stars, FA Cup winners, legends looking for redemption and those who've previously had a taste of the AFC Champions League and have some unfinished business.

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Ki Sung-yueng

Re-signing for the club with whom he began his professional career, it was a homecoming for Korea Republic star Ki Sung-yueng as he returned to FC Seoul from Europe in July.

The former Taeguk Warriors captain played for the capital city club from 2006 to 2009, scoring seven goals in 64 appearances. Since leaving FC Seoul, Ki has enjoyed a stellar career with Celtic, Swansea City, Sunderland and Newcastle United among the sides on his CV.

Still only 31-years-old, the midfielder has plenty to offer and FC Seoul will be hoping he can shake off recent injury concerns to play an important role in their Continental campaign.

It won't be Ki's first time in the AFC Champions League, but it will be his first in over a decade after appearing in the 2009 edition and helping FC Seoul to a quarter-final finish. After a disappointing domestic campaign both Ki, and his side, will be hoping for better on the Asian stage.


Aaron Mooy

A second returnee to Asia and the AFC Champions League after a spell in the United Kingdom, Australia playmaker Aaron Mooy signed for Shanghai SIPG in August following successful spells in the English Premier League with Huddersfield Town and Brighton & Hove Albion.

Like Ki, Mooy will be embarking on his second Continental campaign having played a role in Western Sydney Wanderers' run to the 2014 title, with the then 23-year-old part of the squad up to and including the Round of 16.

The Sydney-born Socceroo is a smooth-passing midfielder with impressive vision and range to match, capable of playing the deep-lying quarterback-esque role or further forward in more advanced areas.

Along with Oscar, Hulk and fellow newcomer Ricardo Lopes, the addition of Mooy makes up a fearsome foursome in attack and Shanghai SIPG will hope that this kind of firepower can push them to better their previous best of a last four finish in 2017.


Mo Barrow

He may have only been at the club since July, but Modou "Mo" Barrow has already made a big impact on not only his new side, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, but also on the complexion of the K League 1 title chase.

In a what was effectively a six-pointer between the two title contenders, the Gambian came off the bench to capitalise on a poor header from Ulsan Hyundai's Kim Kee-hee to take Jeonbuk top of the table with a 1-0 win on the penultimate matchweek of the season - a result which helped his side go on to clinch a record-breaking eighth title.

Like Mooy and Ki, the 27-year-old attacker has plenty of experience from his time in the UK representing the likes of Swansea City, Nottingham Forest, Blackburn Rovers, Leeds United and most recently Reading FC.

The Gambia international is a pacey winger, who likes to run with the ball, take on defenders and create chances. Comfortable playing on the flanks or as a forward, Jeonbuk will be hoping Barrow can similarly revitalise their Continental campaign the way he has their fortunes on the domestic front.


Callum McManaman

Another winger arriving at the AFC Champions League via England, Melbourne Victory signed FA Cup-winner Callum McManaman just last month after the 29-year-old left Luton Town.

The Merseysider, 29, had notable success with Wigan Athletic, helping the side lift the FA Cup in 2013 with a man-of-the-match performance against Manchester City, while also enjoying spells with West Bromwich Albion, Sheffield Wednesday and Sunderland.

McMananman, who represented England at the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup, will bolster Victory's attacking options alongside Marco Rojas and Robbie Kruse and his coach Grant Brebner is expecting big things of the former Everton Youth Academy graduate.

"Callum is a very experienced player who has performed on the biggest stage in the world's toughest club competition, the English Premier League," he said. "He's a wonderful addition to our playing group. There's no question Callum is a very talented player but what he also brings is leadership and a hunger for success."


Jaja Coelho

Reigning Thailand league champions Chiangrai United boosted their front line in August with the signing of former Buriram United and Muangthong striker Jaja Coelho, returning to Southeast Asia after a disappointing 2019 season in Korea Republic with Seongnam.

The Brazilian does, though, have previous history in the Thai league and, an impressive one at that, when alongside compatriot Diogo Luis the forward fired home a stunning 34 goals in 34 games in the 2017 season.

A move to Muangthong followed and although he did not hit the same heights he tallied a creditable 14 goals in 26 matches. After failing to make an appearance for Seongnam the year after, though, the Brazilian will want to show he still has what it takes, and there's no better stage than Asia's top club competition.

Physically imposing at 6 foot 3, Jaja Coelho is a targetman with an eye for goal and excellent technique on the ball. If he can recapture even a fraction of his sensational Buriram United form, Chiangrai could have made a very shrewd acquisition.


The competition could well bring other players into the spotlight, and with just a few weeks to go till kick-off, there is a lot to be excited about. While those five players can make a difference, many others want to have a lasting effect on procedures.

Which new signing will shine brightest in #ACL2020? Poll ends at 16:00 (UTC +8) on November 18.

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