Saudi Arabia captain Yasser al-Qahtani won the Asian Player of the Year award yesterday and set his sights on a move to Europe.
Al-Qahtani was the joint leading goalscorer in the Asian Cup, where the Saudis lost the final 1-0 to Iraq in July, and led his Al Hilal club to the quarter-finals of the Asian Champions League.
"I'm very proud winning this award," he said. "Frankly speaking, I wasn't representing only myself. I'm representing the Saudi people and all of my teammates."
The 25-year-old striker edged Iraqi pair Younis Mahmoud and Nashat Akram for the continent's top individual award.
Mahmoud was the player of the tournament at the Asian Cup, was joint leading scorer with al-Qahtani, and scored the winning goal in the final.
Midfielder Akram was instrumental in Iraq's run to the deciding match.
"The three of us come from Arab nations who were nominated for this award and that's an achievement in itself," al-Qahtani said.
Al-Qahtani said he has had preliminary discussions with Middlesbrough in the English Premier League, initiated by a phone call from the club's Egypt striker Ahmed Mido.
"I have no clue what is going to happen next," he said. "I hope to play in Europe ... it's a dream."
"I would love, for the benefit of my team, to play in Europe and gain more experience -- I would love to go to England or Spain, for sure," he said.
Asian Champions League winners Urawa Reds of Japan were voted the region's top club of the year and Iraq won the team of the year award.
Iraq have not played a game on home soil in at least four years and have a team of players scattered throughout the Middle East, yet qualified for the semi-finals at the Athens 2004 Olympics and made the Asian Games final before winning the Asian Cup.