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World Cup One To Watch: Iran’s 23-year-old forward Sardar Azmoun

Sardar Azmoun
Photo: Getty Images


World Cup One To Watch: Iran’s 23-year-old forward Sardar Azmoun

The Iran international will be a player to keep an eye out for in Russia.

Iran’s Sardar Azmoun will be perhaps one of the lesser known quantities at this summer’s World Cup in Russia, although that is unlikely to remain the case for long.

Referred to by the press as the “Iranian Messi”, the youngster, himself, prefers to be compared to former Sweden icon Zlatan Ibrahimovic, thanks to a rare aerial prowess developed during a childhood playing both football and volleyball.

The 23-year-old forward, who plays his club football in the host country for Rubin Kazan, is so highly rated back home that supporters are expecting him to become Iran’s most successful player ever.

Touted as the successor to legendary Team Melli’s all-time top goalscorer, Ali Daei, Azmoun carries the hopes of a nation on his shoulders ahead of a tough group stage line-up, consisting of Morocco, Spain and Portugal.

To see who else features in The Boot Room’s World Cup Ones to Watch series, click here.

Who is he?

Azmoun, who was born in Gonbad-e Kavus in Iran, joined Rubin Kazan from Sepahan in his homeland and was loaned to Rostov before joining them permanently in 2016.

Rostov activated a buy-out clause in Azmoun’s contract, and despite a legal challenge from with Rubin Kazan, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that he was Rostov’s player.

However, despite his fractious departure, he would return to Rubin Kazan in the summer of 2017. This season he has scored five goals in 26 Russian Premier League appearances for Volzháne.

What is his international experience/record?


Having been capped 33 times by his country, scoring 23 goals, Azmoun is now going some way towards justifying links with Ali Daei. Already, he finds himself among the top five of Iran’s all-time goalscorers.

Showing a knack for scoring crucial goals in big games, he recorded the only strike in the home win over South Korea last October that underlined Iran’s position as favourites to qualify for the World Cup finals.

While he has impressed at club level, some of his best form has been for his country, with a run of impressive goals during Carlos Queiroz’s side’s unbeaten qualifying run for the 2018 World Cup.

Why will he be a breakout World Cup star?

Azmoun has emerged as one of the most exciting forwards currently playing in Europe and, despite his youth, he has a great deal of experience, having played several seasons of Russian top flight football while appearing in both the Europa League and Champions League.

“He has all the qualities to succeed at the highest level,” Iran coach Queiroz told ESPN FC in 2015“He is improving all the time. He has to keep his feet on the ground, work hard and make the right decisions. If so, he could be a real star of Iranian and Asian football for years to come.”

Just two years later and the 23-year-old has emerged as a key player for Iran and perhaps his nation’s key hope ahead of the summer competition in a nation all so familiar to him.

What is his future after the World Cup?

According to The Guardian, Azmoun has been linked with several Premier League clubs, Everton and Stoke City among them, having impressed for the Russian club since a controversial move from Rubin Kazan.

Reports suggest Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool even monitored the then-21-year-old two seasons ago, while Bleacher Report also refer to previous links with Serie A giants AC Milan and Lazio.

Bleacher Report continue to suggest that Azmoun’s most likely chance of him moving to England would be a switch to Leicester City, Everton or Wolverhampton Wanderers —with the latter seeming the most likely.

There is also a suggestion that Celtic could also emerge as serious competitors for the Iran star, which goes hand-in-hand with recent reports by The Scotsman.

The 23-year-old will be a key player for his country at the World Cup in Russia this summer and good showings against group rivals Portugal and Spain will undoubtedly increase his profile.

Currently yet to prove himself outside of the Russian Premier League, this summer could be Azmoun’s golden opportunity to test himself against the game’s elite on his biggest stage yet.

Perhaps being away from the focus of Europe’s top five leagues has helped to alleviate some of the pressure or sense of expectation that may otherwise have overwhelmed him.

To see who else features in The Boot Room’s World Cup Ones to Watch series, click here.

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