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Kuala Lumpur: Two years ago today Paulinho joined Guangzhou Evergrande from Tottenham Hotspur before going on to make an immediate impact in helping his new side lift the 2015 AFC Champions League title.

With the move proving an unequivocal success for both parties, the-AFC.com looks back on five summer transfers who fitted seamlessly into their new team to help their quest for continental glory.


Paulinho

Tottenham Hotspur to Guangzhou Evergrande, June 2015

 

After finding it difficult to settle during his two years at Tottenham, Paulinho sought pastures new under countryman Luiz Felipe Scolari at Guangzhou Evergrande. With fellow Brazilians Ricardo Goulart and Elkeson also in the squad, the move provided the midfielder the perfect platform to kick-start his career – and that is exactly what he did.

Paulinho made his AFC Champions League bow two months later as 2013 champions Guangzhou travelled to Kashiwa Reysol for the first leg of the quarter-finals. The Chinese side took an early lead before the Brazilian rifled in a free-kick from over 40 yards out to stun the hosts in what is one of the finest goals the competition has ever seen.

Guangzhou went on to win 3-1 and advance 4-2 on aggregate before overcoming former winners Gamba Osaka in the semi-finals. A narrow 1-0 victory over two legs against Al Ahli of the United Arab Emirates in the final gave Paulinho his first continental crown and Guangzhou their second to add to their fourth successive league title.

Paulinho was instrumental in Guangzhou’s league-cup double last year, gaining a recall to the Brazil team after a two-year absence. Arguably the finest import the Chinese Super League has seen, Paulinho’s form has alerted top clubs in Europe, and he will be crucial in his side’s quest for a third AFC Champions League title.


Lima

Benfica to Al Ahli Dubai, July 2015

Just a few weeks after Paulinho joined Guangzhou, fellow 2015 AFC Champions League finalists Al Ahli would sign a Brazilian of their own after bringing in Lima from Portuguese giants Benfica, and the striker’s impact was equally as instantaneous.

Faced with a tricky quarter-final tie against Naft Tehran, Lima netted the only goal of the game in the first leg victory at Azadi Stadium. The forward was at it again in the return fixture as he opened the scoring from distance as the Emirati team went on to claim a 3-1 aggregate victory.

 

Lima was first on the scoresheet once more in the first leg of the semi-final at Al Hilal when he headed in compatriot Everton Ribeiro’s free-kick in a 1-1 draw, before opening the scoring in the second leg in Dubai in a 3-2 win that saw Al Ahli progress to their first continental final.

The striker, though, was unable to repeat his feats in the final as Guangzhou claimed a 1-0 aggregate victory. The Brazilian won the league with Al Ahli in 2016 before his form dipped the following year and he departed the UAE in early 2017.


Rafinha

Nacional to Ulsan Hyundai, July 2012

A nomadic career that had seen Brazilian Rafinha to and fro between his homeland and Japan saw the forward loaned from Gamba Osaka to Korea Republic’s Ulsan Hyundai in the summer of 2012 in a move that would lead to his most successful season in the game.

Momentum was building at Ulsan, who went into a quarter-final clash with Al Hilal having won four on the bounce in the tournament. Continental powerhouses they may be, but the Saudi side proved no match for Ulsan as Rafinha’s solitary goal in Korea was followed by a brace in Riyadh as Ulsan ran out 5-0 victors on aggregate.

A goal down in the first leg of the semi-final against Bunyodkor, who Rafinha had scored two penalties against for Gamba in the group stage, the forward leveled the scores in Tashkent in a 3-1 away victory, before a 2-0 home win set up a date with another Saudi side, Al Ahli.

Eight wins in a row with 13 scored in five knockout round matches, there would be no let-up in the final. A further three without reply, with the Brazilian bagging the second, saw the Korean side crowned deserved champions. Rafinha and Ulsan had done little in the AFC Champions League prior and have done even less since, but for the latter half of 2012 it was a marriage made in heaven.


Mamadou Niang

Fenerbahce to Al Sadd, September 2011

After five seasons at Olympique Marseille in which he won Ligue 1 in 2010 before claiming Turkey’s Super Lig with Fenerbahce in 2011, former Senegal international Mamadou Niang was enjoying the most fruitful period of his career when he rocked up at Al Sadd in the summer of 2011.

The Qatari side had won their group and scraped through the Round of 16 but, by the time they arrived in the last eight, had scored fewer than any other side still left in the tournament with nine goals. They were unbeaten, but in desperate need of a goalscorer. Enter Niang.

Trailing 2-0 to Sepahan in the second leg of the quarter-finals with the Iranian side needing one more to force extra time, Niang popped up with four minutes to play to send Al Sadd through. A brace in a 2-0 win at Suwon Samsung Bluewings in the first leg of the semi-finals then ultimately proved enough to progress to the final after a 2-1 aggregate victory.

With Al Sadd 2-1 up in Jeonju and just seconds away from a first AFC Champions League title, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors leveled in stoppage time as the tie ultimately went to penalties. Niang netted first from the spot before the Qataris won 4-2 to be crowned continental champions as the Senegalese finished the tournament as their top scorer.


Mohamed Kallon

AS Monaco to Al Ittihad (loan), July 2005

A decade in Italy followed by a year at Monaco saw Mohamed Kallon arrive on loan at Al Ittihad in mid-2005 with some pedigree after falling out of favour with the French side’s head coach Didier Deschamps. Offered the chance to join the Saudis’ title defence, the Sierra Leone international got down to business quickly.

Al Ittihad drew 1-1 with Shandong Luneng in the first leg of their quarter-final but progressed with ease following a 7-2 win in the second leg in which Kallon scored one. Three more in a 7-0 aggregate victory over Busan I’Park must have made the forward think life was a breeze in his desert surroundings as the Jeddah team strolled into the final.

But a face-off between the first two winners of the competition saw Al Ain offer a sterner test as Al Ittihad needed a late penalty from Kallon to secure a 1-1 draw in the United Arab Emirates in the first leg of the final.

The striker then opened the scoring on two minutes in the reverse fixture before Al Ittihad eased to a 4-2 victory to retain their title – a feat that hasn’t been repeated since. Kallon finished as the tournament’s top scorer with six goals before returning to his parent club in mid-2006.

Photos: Lagardère Sports

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