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The summer signings: West Asia 

Amman: Ahead of the 2019 AFC Champions League knockout stage, clubs across the Continent have been busy strengthening their squads and making managerial appointments.

As a hot summer across West Asia comes to an end, it has also been a heated season in the transfer market. The eight teams from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Islamic Republic of Iran and Qatar bolstered their ranks with exciting signings who hope to start with a bang as teams kick-off their season with the 2019 AFC Champions League Round of 16 matches in August.

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Al Nassr

Stability is the name of the game at King Fahd International Stadium. Portuguese coach Rui Vitoria continues at the helm, having delivered qualification to the 2019 AFC Champions League knockout stage as well as securing a first Saudi Pro League title in five years for the Riyadh-based team.

The foreign quartet of Brad Jones in goal, Maicon in defence, Giuliano in midfield and Abderazzaq Hamdallah in attack are set to continue on from the group stage. Brazilian midfielder Giuliano, who netted three times during the group stage, retained his place in the squad despite injury concerns. 28-year-old Hamdallah was, meanwhile, rewarded for his scoring exploits in the league last season with a new three-year contract.

Al Wahda FSCC

Experienced coach Henk ten Cate stepped down from his post at Al Nahyan Stadium over the summer for personal reasons, and Al Wahda were quick to replace him with another Dutchman in 45-year-old Maurice Steijn who arrived from VVV Venlo for his first overseas appointment.

On the players' front, there were limited changes; Moroccan winger Mourad Batna departed and in came former Al Hilal midfielder Nicolas Milesi. The Uruguayan will replace veteran Sultan Al Ghafri in central midfield after the latter was sold to Abu Dhabi rivals Al Jazira. Meanwhile Khalil Ibrahim expects to fill the right winger role vacated by Batna.

Al Ittihad

After a roller-coaster season that saw them narrowly escape relegation while cruising to the AFC Champions League Round of 16, it is all change at Al Ittihad. Head coach Jose Luis Sierra is overseeing an overhaul of the squad, with Australian defender Matthew Jurman and club captain Ahmed Assiri the most notable departures.

Former Inter, Lazio and West Ham midfielder Luis Jimenez was recruited over the summer, while Emiliano Vecchio arrived from UAE side Shabab Al Ahli where he had excelled under Sierra. Three goals in the group stage earned Romarinho a stay in the squad, and Chilean midfielder Carlos Villanueva will continue to pull the strings in midfield going into the knock-out stages.

Zobahan FC

The only Iranian team in this year’s AFC Champions League knock-out stage, Zobahan have lost key players over the summer. Goalkeeper Mohammad Rashid Mazaheri left to join Tractorsazi, being replaced by Padideh custodian Yousef Behzadi.

Striker Christian Osaguona swapped Zobahan for K-League side Jeju United. And as one Nigerian left, two arrived. The Fuladshahr-based team signed defender Ebiabowei Baker from Qadsia SC and added 28-year-old striker Macauley Chrisantus from Spanish third tier side Conquense.

Al Duhail SC

Over the summer, Al Duhail lost two key players who made European moves. Striker Youssef El Arabi joined Greek side Olympiakos, while playmaker Shoya Nakajima earned a big money move to Porto. Replacing the former is Iraq international Mohanad Ali, who joined Al Duhail from Al Shorta. Tunisian winger Youssef Msakni returns to Duhail after a loan spell at Belgian side KAS Eupen.

Rui Faria’s side retained the services of Brazilian winger Edmilson and Moroccan centre-back Medhi Benatia who played an important role in helping them survive a difficult Group C to make it into the AFC Champions League Round of 16.

Al Sadd SC

The four-year reign of Jesualdo Ferreira came to an end this summer following a long-awaited league title for Al Sadd. Club captain Xavi took over as new coach after announcing his retirement and will make his competitive debut as a head coach in the 2019 AFC Champions League Round of 16 tie against rivals Al Duhail.

Xavi’s spot on the pitch will be filled by Korea Republic midfielder Nam Tae-hee who arrived from Al Duhail after recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained last year. There was little change elsewhere as African champion Baghdad Bounedjah, Korean midfielder Jung Woo-young and Spanish veteran Gabi continue as Al Sadd’s other imports in the knock-out stages.

Al Ahli Saudi FC

Changes were in abundance at Al Ahli over the summer as the Jeddah club looks to move on from a disappointing season where they finished fourth in the Saudi Pro League and scraped through to the AFC Champions League knock-out stage.

Branko Ivankovic, a 2018 AFC Champions League finalist with Persepolis, was recruited to lead the club in the new season. Omar Al Somah, who netted all but one of Al Ahli’s seven group stage goals, spearheads the attack alongside Cape Verde international Djaniny. Bosnian midfielder Elvis Saric arrived from Suwon Samsung Bluewings earlier this month and Brazilian defensive midfielder Josef de Souza, in his second season at King Abdullah Sport City Stadium, rounds off the club’s foreign quartet.

Al Hilal SFC

A fourth coach in 2019 takes the helm at King Saud University Stadium, with 50-year-old Romanian Razvan Lucescu named as the new Al Hilal boss in June. The former PAOK coach sees his squad bolstered with the signing of Korean defender Jang Hyun-soo from FC Tokyo.

The two-time AFC Champions League finalists also locked a permanent deal for Peru international Andre Carillo who spent last season at the club on loan from Benfica. Sebastian Giovinco and Bafetimbi Gomis, who combined for four of Al Hilal’s seven goals in the group stage, continue as the side’s attacking duo.

On the departures front, Omar Abdulrahman leaves the club after failing to agree a new deal, while Abdulmalek Al Khaibari’s three-year stay at the club came to an end as he rejoined his former club Al Shabab.

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