Stars heading for Qatar

  • We take a closer look at four key figures set for Qatar 2019

  • From strikers to defenders, they inspired their sides to glory

  • Get a glimpse of what’s to come at the FIFA Club World Cup

When you bring together the best club sides from across the continents, some of the game's outstanding individuals will inevitably be involved.

So, to whet your appetite for what’s in store for those heading to the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2019, we’ve picked out a few names from the qualified teams who will be worth keeping an eye out for.

MADRID, SPAIN - JUNE 1: Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool FC celebrates the victory  during the UEFA Champions League  match between Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool at the Wanda Metropolitano on June 1, 2019 in Madrid Spain (Photo by Erwin Spek/Soccrates/Getty Images)

Virgil van Dijk

Liverpool, defender

‘Imperious’ is probably as close as you’re going to get to encapsulating Van Dijk in one word. A few eyebrows were raised when the Dutchman moved to Anfield for a record-breaking fee, but you’ll struggle to find anyone questioning that wisdom today.

The first defender to feature in the final top three to be FIFA’s best player since Fabio Cannavaro was crowned in 2006, Van Dijk’s composure on and off the ball only goes to mask his deceptive turn of pace. Blessed with an enviable passing range and dominant in the air, it’s rare to see him need a last-ditch tackle due to his outstanding reading of the game.

Who else to look out for

Mohamed Salah – Part of a devastating front trio, electric Egyptian Mohamed Salah came third in The Best FIFA Men’s Player standings a year ago and has been named Africa’s top talent for successive years.

July 19, 2019 - Cairo, Algeria, Egypt - FRANCE OUT July 19, 2019: Baghdad Bounedjah of Algeria celebrating scoring to 1-0 during the Final of 2019 African Cup of Nations match between Algeria and Senegal at the Cairo International Stadium in Cairo, Egypt. CSM. Algeria v Senegal - Final of 2019 African Cup of Nations PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxONLY - ZUMAc307 20190719\_zsa\_c307_027 Copyright: xUlrikxPedersenx

Baghdad Bounedjah

Al Sadd, striker

It’s already been an unforgettable year for Bounedjah. He scored the goal that handed Algeria only their second ever CAF Africa Cup of Nations title in the summer just weeks after clinching the Qatar Stars League title with Al Sadd.

Composed and clinical with the ball at his feet, powerful and bullish when the ball’s in the air, Bounedjah has all the attributes to be considered the complete striker. He struck a mammoth 39 goals in just 22 league games last season, and was top scorer as Al Sadd reached the AFC Champions League semi-finals last year. He has not misplaced his scoring boots this term either, netting a 20-minute hat-trick on the way to scoring four in their second game of the new season.

Who else to look out for

Akram Afif – A central figure in the Qatar national team crowned AFC Asian Cup winners in January, providing goals and assists, he was named the league’s MVP last season.

Monterrey MEXICO - MAY 01: Rogelio Funes Mori #7 of Monterrey uses the trophy as a mirror at the end of the final second leg match between Monterrey and Tigres UANL as part of the CONCACAF Champions League 2019 at BBVA Bancomer Stadium on May 01, 2019 in Monterrey Mexico. (Photo by Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Rogelio Funes Mori

Monterrey, striker

While those beyond the Americas may know Funes Mori primarily through the fact that he is one half of a famous pair of footballing twins, alongside brother Ramiro, Rogelio has long been marked as a striking talent. Compared to the likes of Diego Milito during his days coming through the ranks at River Plate, he has blossomed at Monterrey.

Rangy, unpredictable and driven by getting his name on the scoresheet, Funes Mori has the capacity to produce the spectacular. Creativity is not a trait lacking in a striker who finds routes to goal where others wouldn’t consider – with backheels to overhead kicks stored in his locker.

Who else to look out for

Nicolas Sanchez – The seasoned Argentinian centre-back has found his scoring touch since moving to Mexico in 2017, with his haul including two vital goals in the Concacaf Champions League final.

Hienghene Sport captain Bertrand Kai (R) celebrates with a team-mate during the 2019 OFC Champions League final.

Bertrand Kai

Hienghene Sport, midfielder

Hienghene's dreadlocked captain is central to the New Caledonians’ creativity and goal-scoring capabilities. A figure who leads by example, the OFC Champions League Golden Ball winner looks to take control whenever he can, while also offering a clinical outlet up front when breaking forward from his deeper role.

His well-honed technique sees him taking up dead ball duties, but that doesn’t mean he’s not got a knack for doing damage in the air. He proved this superbly in the Champions League's opening game, heading home twice as part of a superb hat-trick, while also setting up the other two in a five-goal rout.

Who else to look out for

Rocky Nyikeine – The Hienghene Sport goalkeeper picked up the Golden Glove following their historic victory, producing a string of jaw-dropping saves to keep them on track throughout their campaign.

AL AIN, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 18:  Anice Badri of ES Tunis is challenged by Michael Perez of CD Guadalajara during the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018 5th Place Match between ES Tunis and CD Guadalajara at Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium on December 18, 2018 in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Michael Regan - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Anice Badri

Esperance Sportive de Tunis, winger

Tunisian international and wing wizard Badri blessed with ability to cause havoc from either flank, dangerously cutting inside thanks to his direct approach play and fine close control.

Having looked unlikely to ever play at the top level, having suffered a serious spinal injury that kept him out of the game for two years, Badri has now helped guide his nation to their first FIFA World Cup in over a decade and won back-to-back continental titles with Esperance.

Who else to look out for

Khalil Chemmam – Having spent all but one season of his 12-year career at Esperance, their rock-solid centre-back is an inspirational figure at the back.