Afif eyes Europen return after 2nd Asian Cup title for Qatar

Qatar’s Akram Afif underlined his credentials as one of Asia’s finest forwards with a hattrick in the Asian Cup final to guide his team to back-to-back titles, but the forward was coy on playing for another European club in the future.

Afif netted three penalties in the 3-1 victory over Jordan, and he bagged a treble of individual awards: player of the match, most valuable player of the tournament, and top scorer with eight goals.

Opposition coaches who have faced him have praised his skills, with Tajikistan’s Petar Segrt saying it was only a question of time and whether the 27-year-old Al-Sadd forward wanted to return to Europe.

Since leading Qatar to the 2019 title with a tournament record 10 assists, Afif has become one of Asia’s most-feared players.

At the start of this tournament, he said he had dreams of returning to Europe having previously played for Eupen in the Belgian Pro League.

He later became the first Qatari player to be signed by a La Liga club when he moved to Villarreal in 2016, but he was loaned out to Sporting Gijon before returning to Eupen and finally to Al-Sadd in 2018.

He has since developed and is arguably playing at his peak based on his Asian Cup exploits.

“I talked about becoming a professional player (in Europe). But it’s not me who decides. My wife also has to make the decision for me. It’s not easy to leave the club and country,” Afif told reporters after the final.

But he added: “I’d love to become a professional player (in Europe) … I’d say I would love to go.”

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