Tehran: SardarAzmoun has been piling up the international goals and has the potential to be the stand-out 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia player for an Iranian squad that has regularly outperformed expectations.
The 23-year-old striker has already racked up 23 goals for IR Iran since making his debut against Montenegro in May 2014. That has put him in the top five of Team Melli’s all-time goalscorers, helped by his great leaping ability and bursts of acceleration.
Born in the remote city of Gonbad-e Kavus in northeastern Iran, Azmoun was a volleyball star in his teenage years before landing a place at the Sepahan football academy in Isfahan.
He made a serious impact with IR Iran’s youth teams between 2009 and 2013 and was snapped up by Russian club Rubin Kazan at the age of 17, becoming the first Iranian to play in the Russian Premier League.
Azmoun stayed with the team despite reported interest from Arsenal and Liverpool, among others. He left for Russia’s Rostov in 2015 before returning to Rubin Kazan two years later.
But some of his best form has been for his country, with a run of impressive goals during IR Iran’s unbeaten qualifying run for the 2018 World Cup.
He scored a hat-trick against Macedonia in June 2016, and the opener against Uzbekistan a week later that helped secure Iran’s position at the World Cup.
«He has all the qualities to succeed at the highest level,» IR Iran coach Carlos Queiroz told ESPNFC 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.»