Dream XI - Odil Akhmedov
Bishkek: Few Asian midfielders this century have shone as bright, or as long, as Uzbekistan’s Odil Akhmedov.
A record six-time winner of Uzbekistan’s Player of the Year Award, a league champion in both his homeland and China PR, and voted best player at a club which featured Roberto Carlos and Samuel Eto’o – only one of whom makes this list – Akhmedov’s career has seen him team up with footballers of global renown, and match them every step of the way.
With his professional career now in its 15th year, Akhmedov selects a team comprising the very best of his teammates, drawing on his experiences of 104 international caps and fruitful club stints at Pakhtakor, Anzhi Makhachkala, FC Krasnador and current home Shanghai SIPG.
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Odil Akhmedov’s Dream XI
A solid defence
Goalkeeper: Andriy Dykan (Ukraine)
Defenders: Yuriy Zhirkov (Russia), Andreas Granqvist (Sweden), Andrey Yeshchenko (Russia)
A defensive quartet chosen largely for their exploits in the Russian Premier League, although Granqvist (pictured above, left) also spent time in England, Italy and the Netherlands in addition to his native Sweden, while Zhirkov (pictured above, right) spent two seasons with Chelsea.
The Dykan-Granqvist-Akhmedov spine proved formidable at Krasnodar, including during a 2015 UEFA Europa League win and clean sheet over a star-studded Borussia Dortmund.
“Andriy Dykan (pictured above, left) is the goalkeeper,” Akhmedov begins. “He was the goalkeeper of the Ukrainian national team and also played for FC Spartak Moscow. We played together for FC Krasnodar.
“Zhirkov and Yeshchenko are members of the Russian national team. I played alongside both of them at FC Anzhi (Makhachkala), and over the years they are still playing at a high level.
“Granqvist and I played together for FC Krasnodar. He is considered a legend of Swedish football.”
A terrific midfield trio
Central midfielders: Lassana Diarra (France), Oscar (Brazil), Roman Shirokov
A league champion with both Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain, Diarra (pictured above, centre) linked up with Akhmedov in Anzhi’s star-studded midfield, while Brazilian dynamo Oscar (pictured above, left) remains a current teammate at Shanghai SIPG.
Ahmedov and 57-time Russian international Shirokov (pictured above, right) were part of a fearsome midfield at Krasnodar - finishing third in the 2014-15 Russian Premier League.
“Diarra is great at stopping attacks. Oscar and Shirokov are very creative when it comes to getting the attacks started,” reasons Alhmedov.
“I think everyone knows Oscar is a good footballer, and Shirokov and I played together at FC Krasnodar. He is cold-blooded. One of the best readers of the game in Russia."
A dazzling front four with an Uzbek twist
Wingers: Hulk (Brazil), Willian (Brazil)
Strikers: Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon), Alexander Geynrikh (Uzbekistan)
Shanghai SIPG star Hulk (pictured above, right) and Chelsea veteran Willian (formerly of Anzhi) team up for the first time since the 2016 Copa America Centenario as a deadly duo on the flanks, while Africa and Central Asia combine up front.
Eto’o – a UEFA Champions League with both Barcelona and Inter – partners long-time Uzbekistan front man Geynrikh, who finished his career second on the nation’s all-time top scorers list.
“Hulk and Willian (pictured above, left) are both supremely intelligent players. Willian is simply one of the three greatest players I have ever played with. Hulk is also a terrific footballer."
“Eto’o (pictured above, left) was a great leader on and off the pitch. He helped the team a lot when we played together at FC Anzhi, and people still remember how good he was for Barcelona and Inter Milan.
“What about Geynrikh (pictured above, right)? He is an intelligent player. For me he is the smartest Uzbek footballer. So that’s why I picked Eto’o and Geynrikh to front my Dream Team.
“And the head coach for my team? It’s André Villas-Boas.”
Akhmdeov’s Dream XI
GK: Andriy Dykan
DF: Yuriy Zhirkov
DF: Andreas Granqvist
DF: Andrey Yeshschenko
MF: Lassana Diarra
MF: Roman Shirokov
ST: Samuel Eto’o
ST: Alexander Geynrikh
Head coach: Andre Villas-Boas
Photos: AFC, AFP
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