Kuala Lumpur: With the 2020 AFC Champions League currently on hiatus, the-AFC.com continues its series of articles to determine your best sides from the last four editions of the Continental competition.
So, here are nine players in contention for the four places in the midfield. Review the nominees and then choose your favourites for this all-star XI in the poll below.
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Omar Abdulrahman – Al Ain
- 58 chances created (#1 by a midfielder)
- 6 assists (#1 by a midfielder)
- 865 passes made (#1 by a midfielder)
'Amoory' was a joy to behold in the 2016 edition, orchestrating Al Ain's attacking play and weighing in with both goals and assists. So far in front was he in terms of chances created that his 55 assists was more than double the number managed by second-placed Leonardo.
A stunning contribution in the semi-final first leg against El Jaish saw Abdulrahman claim a goal and two assists, before he netted again in the return meeting. Al Ain fell just short of a second AFC Champions League title, but their midfield magician was named the 2016 AFC Player of the Year.
Leonardo – Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors
- 10 goals scored (#1 by a midfielder)
- 27 chances created (#2 by a midfielder)
- 39 shots on goal (#1 by a midfielder)
Leonardo's contribution to Jeonbuk's 2016 title cannot be understated, with the Brazilian bagging nine goals in the knockout rounds. Three goals over two legs sent Melbourne Victory crashing in the last 16, while he also netted braces against Shanghai SIPG and FC Seoul in the quarter- and semi-finals.
The attacking midfielder then lit up Jeonju World Cup Stadium in the first leg of the final by netting a stunning strike from distance and adding a penalty soon after as he wrote his name into the Jeonbuk history books.
Lee Jae-sung – Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors
- 38 tackles won (#1 by a midfielder)
- 81.2% passing accuracy
- Only player to create 20+ chances and win 20+ tackles
The epitome of an all-rounder, Lee Jae-sung was fierce in the tackle (leading the statistics for tackles won by a midfielder) and elegant on the ball – a vital part of the 2016 Continental title-winning side.
A consumate passer and playmaker, the midfielder made up part of a terrific tandem on the field with off-field best friend Kim Bo-kyung. Such were his performances that he flashed up on the radar of several overseas clubs and he belatedly made a move to Germany in the summer of 2018.
Lee Myung-joo – Al Ain
- 1260 minutes played (#1 by a midfielder)
- 88% passing accuracy (#2 by a midfielder)
- 2 goals scored
Mr. Consistent, Lee Myung-joo played more minutes than any other outfield player. Indeed only two goalkeepers, Khalid Eisa and Kwoun Sun-tae, could even match the Korea Republic man.
Lee's precision passing was his standout quality in terms of statistics, but he also popped up with important goals in the knockout stage including in the final against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.
Jucilei – Shandong Luneng
- 86% passing accuracy
- 33 interceptions
- 2 goals scored
Defensive shield Jucilei was a key component in Shandong Luneng's midfield as the Chinese Super League side reached the quarter-finals for the first time since 2005, while he even weighed in with two rare goals.
But it was his reliability in the centre of the park that was most noteworthy, with the former Brazilian international rarely giving the ball away and making a habit of winning it back.
Wu Lei – Shanghai SIPG
- 5 goals scored (#2 by a midfielder)
- 3 assists
- 15 shots on target (#1 by a midfielder)
Wu Lei burst onto the AFC Champions League stage with newcomers Shanghai SIPG in 2016, with a debut goal at Melbourne Victory a sign of things to come in the ensuing years.
He scored the winner against Suwon Samsung Bluewings for SIPG's maiden victory in the competition and, crucially, a goal in each leg of the last 16 － including a stoppage-time winner － to fire his side past FC Tokyo and into the quarter-finals at the first time of asking.
Ehsan Pahlavan – Zobahan
- 3 goals scored
- 76.8% passing accuracy
- 60% shot conversation rate (#1 by a midfielder)
Ehsan Pahlavan was just 22 years old when he made his maiden Continental club appearance at the 2016 AFC Champions League, but the young Iranian winger showed no fear with several fine performances in the tournament.
Most notable was Pahlavan's leading role in the Matchday Five win over Saudi giants Al Nassr where he netted a brace in a 3-0 win, before again getting on the scoresheet in the return meeting a week later.
Walter Montillo – Shandong Luneng
- 3 goals scored (Joint #3 by a midfielder)
- 80.4% passing accuracy
- 20 chances created
The creative cog in the Shandong Luneng side that reached the quarter-finals, Argentine attacking midfielder Walter Montillo had arguably his best season for the Chinese Super League side in 2016 on both the domestic and Continental front.
A former teammate of Brazilian star Neymar at Santos, Montillo's set-piece accuracy, shooting and passing ability helped lead Shandong to their best finish at the AFC Champions League since 2005.
Osmar – FC Seoul
- 52 interceptions (#1 by a midfielder)
- 695 passes made (#2 by a midfielder)
- 79.4% passing accuracy
While attacking players often receive the plaudits, Osmar Ibáñez's contributions – while not as highlight-friendly – were equally impressive.
The Spanish midfielder anchored an offensive-minded FC Seoul line-up and, with his superior reading of the game and positioning, was able to intercept and put an end to opposition attacks – a vital role that saw his side reach the semi-finals.
The polls end on May 23 at 4pm (UTC+8). The Best XI chosen by fans and the best XI based on the 2016 statistics will be announced at the end of May.
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