In a blink of an eye, the summer break is over the 2022-23 European football campaign is upon us.
It is shaping up to be an action-packed season, especially with the first-ever winter FIFA World Cup to take place in Qatar from Nov. 21 to Dec. 18.
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Here, we look at seven of the continent's stars to keep a close eye on this season.
Son Heung-min (Tottenham)
The most obvious candidate on the list, Son Heung-min is now established as one of the world's best players. The question is: can he get even better?
Adding to the intrigue surrounding Son is the pressure he will be under captaining South Korea at the World Cup, especially given the tough draw they have been handed where they will take on Uruguay, Ghana and Portugal in Group H.
That daunting task, coupled with Spurs' continuing quest to win a major trophy for the first time since 2008, should make Son a man with no shortage of motivation this season.
Kim Min-jae (Napoli)
Nonetheless, a new bona fide star could soon emerge in Kim Min-jae.
Aptly nicknamed 'Monster' albeit in an affectionate manner for his imposing physique and never-say-die attitude, Kim only has one season in Europe under his belt with Turkish giants Fenerbahce but has since earned a move to Serie A outfit Napoli.
Takumi Minamino (Monaco)
The Japan international's search for regular first-team football has now taken him to Ligue 1 with Monaco, with the 2022-23 season shaping up as a pivotal one in his career.
At the age of 27, Minamino should soon be performing at the peak of his powers and he would ideally like to be making an impact on the field each week rather than be warming the bench.
The silky-skilled attacker is also one of Japan's most-talented individuals and will need to be firing on all cylinders at the World Cup, especially with the Samurai Blue coming up against former champions Germany and Spain, as well as Costa Rica, in the group stage.
Kaoru Mitoma (Brighton)
In addition to Minamino, another man Japan can hope to turn to at the World Cup is Kaoru Mitoma, who is about to embark on his first campaign in the Premier League with Brighton having spent last term on loan with Union SG.
Mitoma caught the eye in Belgium with eight goals from 28 appearances in all competition, and has long been regarded as one of Japanese football's brightest talents from the time he broke through with Kawasaki Frontale.
Still only 25, Mitoma might have to bide his time in order to break into the Seagulls first team but has been given an opportunity to impress in preseason.
Along with Arsenal rightback Takehiro Tomiyasu, Mitoma is shaping up as the future of Japanese football but also as individuals who could very well make an immediate impact this season.
Mehdi Taremi (Porto)
Playing in Portugal may mean less of a spotlight for Iranian striker Mehdi Taremi, but that has certainly not stopped him from forcing his way into the spotlight with reigning Primeira Liga champions Porto.
The 30-year-old has regularly been linked with some of Europe's bigger clubs but has remained at Porto for now, and will also look to lead Iran farther than they have ever gone at this year's World Cup, alongside fellow Europe-based star Sardar Azmoun of Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga.
Team Melli memorably held Portugal to a draw and only lost narrowly to Spain in 2018, as well as beating Morocco, which should give them belief that they could pull off an upset or two against the likes of England, United States and Wales in November.
Zidane Iqbal (Manchester United)
Especially in a 4-0 friendly win over Liverpool, Iqbal exuded confidence in possession but also a combative nature in the middle of the park, and new manager Erik ten Hag's history of blooding young talent could see provide opportunities this season.
It will be interesting to see if Iqbal does taste first-team action in 2022-23, although it should not stop him from being heavily involved with Iraq as they prepare for next year's AFC Asian Cup.
Nguyen Quang Hai (Pau)
The Vietnam international, long regarded as one of Southeast Asia's brightest talents, has finally earned his move to Europe with Pau in Ligue 2 after eight years at hometown club Hanoi.
The left-footed playmaker with a penchant for spectacular goals produced star turns in both Vietnam's title-winning AFF Championship campaign in 2018, as well as their historic run to the Asian Cup quarterfinals the following year.
At the age of 25, it is the perfect time for Quang Hai to kick on in his career and do what few from the region have managed before by succeeding in Europe.
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