One of Asia’s most successful clubs, Al Hilal SFC built a dynasty on either side of the new millennium that rivals the best in the football world.
Around the turn of the 21st century, Al Hilal transformed their domestic success into the continental front in an era which saw them win the Asian Club Championship, two Asian Cup Winners’ Cup titles and two Asian Super Cup titles to add to two Saudi Pro League titles and one Crown Prince Cup - all in the space of four years.
These were exciting times for Al Hilal, that ushered a new era for the club, marking it as one of Asia's greatest ever club teams.
Kuala Lumpur: After Asia’s football fans spent much of the past two weekends debating the merits of the continent’s finest Bundesliga and Premier League players, our focus this week turns to the players who made an impact in the Italian game.
To help us examine the contenders in our Asia’s Greatest Serie A Players poll, we’ve enlisted Cesare Polenghi, an Italian born and raised, Japan-based football columnist and pundit, and the former Managing Editor of Goal Asia.
Kuala Lumpur: Over the last few months, we have looked at some of the best goals of the AFC Champions League. Now it's the turn of the AFC Cup to have the spotlight shone on some of its best moments.
Kicking off the AFC Cup's version of the '5 of the Best' series, we begin with one of our most popular categories: free-kicks. Curlers, rockets and long-range efforts - enjoy these superb set-pieces and then select your favourite by voting at the bottom of the article.
Kuala Lumpur: Nineteen trophies speak for themselves. And the exceptional career kicked-off at the turn of the century when Kyoto Purple Sanga signed a relatively unknown 19-year-old who had been playing university football in his native Korea Republic. Within two years, he was a member of the national team that took fourth place at the FIFA World Cup under the guidance of Guus Hiddink.
A year after that, the Dutch coach persuaded him to follow his footsteps to PSV Eindhoven, where his performances prompted Sir Alex Ferguson to recruit him in 2005. During seven seasons at Manchester United, he became the first Asian footballer to play UEFA Champions League finals – though two defeats by Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona signified a bittersweet experience.
Born to entertain: The unique story behind the rise of Kyrgyz Republic's Alykulov
Almaty: An international debutant at 18, his country’s Player of the Year six months later and a high-profile arrival at one of the region’s big clubs in the new year – Gulzhigit Alykulov’s life has been moving as quickly as his feet.
But while his surge to prominence in international football has been rapid, the truth is the Kyrgyz Republic youngster has never been far away from the spotlight.
Talking exclusively with the-AFC.com, one of the rising stars of Central Asian football discusses his meteoric rise, earning the approval of Andrey Arshavin and the pivotal role played by his well-known family.