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Kuala Lumpur: With the 2017 AFC Champions League Group Stage now concluded, takes a look at how 23 of the hottest prospects under the age of 23 have fared in the continental competition’s first phase, starting with those from Asia’s West Zone.

Check out the full 23 Under 23 at the 2017 AFC Champions League


Age: 23 (22 years old at beginning of ACL2017)

Club: Al Ain

Minutes played: 527

Caio has been an ever-present in Al Ain’s march to the last 16, scoring one and creating 12 chances for his teammates. The Brazilian has had almost twice as many attempts on goal than anyone else on our list, while he is also in the top three in terms of successful passes (186) and duels won (27).


Leo Bonatini

Age: 23 (22 years old at beginning of ACL2017)

Club: Al Hilal

Minutes played: 300

Leo Bonatini’s hugely impressive domestic record has, surprisingly, not been replicated on the continent, although the striker has played a part in five of Al Hilal’s six games. A passing accuracy just shy of 80% is strong for a frontman and, with the Saudi side looking good, there remains plenty time for him to shine.

Farshid Esmaeili

Age: 23 (22 years old at beginning of ACL2017)

Club: Esteghlal

Minutes played: 440

A goal and an assist is a positive return for midfielder Esmaeili, who has had more attempts on goal (9) than anyone on our list except Caio. More impressively, however, Esmaeili is well out in front when it comes to duels won, with his tally of 44 being nine more than second-placed Mehran Derakhshanmehr of Zobahan.

Mohamed Jamal

Age: 23 (22 years old at beginning of ACL2017)

Club: Al Jazira

Minutes played: 286

Mohamed Jamal started the first three of Al Jazira’s Group B matches but has only featured in 45 minutes since. In the game time he did receive, though, Jamal won more tackles (10) than his under 23 counterparts with a success rate of almost 91%.

Almoez Ali

Age: 20

Club: Lekhwiya

Minutes played: 283

After coming off the bench in Lekhwiya’s first three games, Almoez Ali began two of their final three outings as the unbeaten Qatari team topped Group B. The forward netted the winner in the 2-1 Matchday Four victory over Esteghlal Khouzestan and also has one assist to his name.

Almoez Ali scores the winner against Lekhwiya 

Ahmed Rashid

Age: 20

Club: Al Wahda

Minutes played: 203

Ahmed Rashid played a part in Al Wahda’s first three games but was an unused substitute in the second half of the group stage as the Emirati side crashed out bottom of the Group D standings.

Dostonbek Khamdamov

Age: 20

Club: Bunyodkor

Minutes played: 495

Dostonbek Khamdamov delivered more crosses (33) and set up more chances (15) than any other player on our list. One goal and two assists was not enough to prevent an early exit but he did play a part in the Uzbek side ending an 18-game winless run in overcoming Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli 2-0.

Ali Alipour

Age: 21

Club: Persepolis

Minutes played: 222

After coming off the bench twice in the first three games, Ali Alipour started two of Persepolis’s ensuing three fixtures as the Iranian champions advanced to the last 16. The forward also set up Mehdi Taremi’s crucial third in the 4-2 Matchday Six win over Al Wahda that sealed a place in the knockout round.

Abdullah Al Amar

Age: 23 (22 years old at beginning of ACL2017)

Club: Al Fateh

Minutes played: 320

Abdullah Al Amar started Al Fateh’s first three games but made only one appearance in the second half of the group stage, causing his strong early stats to tail off. The Saudi team’s efforts to progress to the next round ultimately proved unsuccessful.

Name: Mehran Derakhshanmehr

Age: 18

Club: Zobahan

Minutes played: 540

The only player in the West of our selected under 23 players to play all 540 minutes – and one of two across the continent – Mehran Derakhshanmehr can reflect on a strong Group C showing despite Zobahan’s exit. Only Farshid Esmaeili won more duels than the left-sided defender’s 35, while his 364 touches was the highest on our list.

Ahmad Al Harbi

Age: 22

Club: Al Ahli (KSA)

Minutes played: 0

Goalkeeper Ahmad Al Harbi is the only one of the 11 under 23 players in the West who did not get any game time in the group stage. His side Al Ahli, though, did advance to the knockout round and the substitute custodian remains ready to be called upon if required.

Photos: Lagardère Sports