Hamed Momeni explains why rising Iranian star Sardar Azmoun is being touted as the exciting goal-scoring talent to quench his nation’s thirst for attacking football.
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Iran's talismanic striker Sardar Azmoun began his career at the age of nine, but could very well have been lost to football early on. Despite being called up to Iran's U-12 national team, the sports enthusiast took a break from football a year later, opting to play volleyball instead. It was a sport his immediate family excelled at — particularly his father, a former player with Iran's national volleyball team. Fortunately for the young kid, his family supported his decision to later switch back to football.
Azmoun was subsequently offered a place with a local team by a talent scout. His progression was swift, as he was soon called up to Iran’s U-17 and U-19 national team. The youngster participated in the Commonwealth Cup held in Russia back in 2012 where he finished top scorer for the tournament having netted seven times in six matches. That grabbed the attention of Russian talent scouts, and led to his move abroad with Russian outfit Rubin Kazan.
The Iranian striker scored his first goal for his new team in the last round of UEFA Europa League qualifying against Norwegian side Molde FK. The 18-year-old came on the pitch in the 64th minute and twenty minutes later put his name on the score sheet during only his second ever appearance for Rubin Kazan’s senior team. He joined the likes of Iranian veterans Ali Daei, Mehdi Mahdavikia, and Javad Nekounam in having scored in an European club championship. Azmoun was then loaned to FK Rostov in early 2015 in an attempt to save the minnows from relegation.
Why you need to know about him
Football enthusiasts in Iran yearn for fast-paced football. The pace and beauty of the game is vital in getting fans watching the game in Iran. Defensive tactics are infamous for boring Iranian fans even if such methods of play earn them the results they have been ardently eyeing. That is why the likes of Ali Daei or Ali Karimi excite spectators with their stunning skills and are the most popular and most-watched players in the country.
After Ali Daei’s retirement from international career at the end of World Cup 2006, Team Melli has yet to see a talented goal-getter bolster its offensive line. Football experts in Iran are now unanimously of the view that Azmoun is the only striker who has the potential to fill in for the Iranian legend.
Azmoun's early switch to European football at 18 was indicative of the bright future that lay ahead of him. Scoring against the likes of South Korea, Iraq and Qatar in international friendlies, and the Asian Cup 2015 in Australia, demonstrate his powerful scoring skills and promising future.
Despite being only 20 years old, there is a long list of positive traits, both on and off the pitch. In Iran, Azmoun is often compared to Argentine ace Lionel Messi. His outstanding dribbling skills, game-reading ability, astonishing control on the ball, superb eye for goal and marvelous finishing power are his main attributes. Off the field, he is a personable down-to-earth young man who always seeks to learn new lessons from his coaches.
According to Azmoun himself, he was very lucky to have had the chance to work with former Real Madrid and Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz. Despite not making the squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Sardar praised the technical and managerial abilities of Queiroz and admitted there was much to learn from the Portuguese manager.
Azmoun confesses that the Russian Premier League features players who are physically stronger than him. This is a problem as his slender physique does not allow him to get into one-on-one challenges, especially with stronger players. For the same reason, he can be easily tripped or brought down when colliding with another player. However, taking his young age into consideration, he could easily overcome such weakness through adequate fitness and conditioning improvements.
Carlos Queiroz has worked with some of the best forwards in the world, including a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. So when the Iran coach described Azmoun’s winning strike against Qatar as a brilliant goal that any top striker would be proud of, people took notice.
"It was special movement for the centre forward,” he said. "The way he moved the ball was really brilliant. For a young player he has a great future in front of him."
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Azmoun comes from the Golestan province in north east of Iran. The people of his town are quite gleeful to see Sardar represents their small beloved town in Team Melli and overseas in Europe.
“When I scored against Norway’s side Molde FK, all people in my home town celebrated my goal after the game and were happy to see my first goal in a European tournament,” he said.
Likewise, the 20-year-old gifted striker loves his hometown where the car number plates feature the number 69. This is the reason the youngster dons the number 69 jersey, to show a bit of his immense pride in representing his hometown and its people.
Despite Team Melli’s early exit from the Asian Cup back in January, Sardar’s eye-catching performance during his debut in the tournament has encouraged talent scouts to keep an eye on the Iranian youngster.
“As a player one of my ambitions is to play in English Premier League,” Sardar told FourFourTwo exclusively.
“I have always fancied playing for Arsenal under Arsene Wenger. The Gunners’ French manager is famous for trusting young players and giving them the opportunity to grow and display their potentials.
“That’s where young inexperienced players become big players and a bright future awaits gifted youngsters. I might look quite ambitious, but that’s absolutely normal for a player. My greatest wish is to lift the much-coveted UEFA Champions League one day.”
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