A number of Europe’s elite clubs are targeting a young forward dubbed the “Iranian Messi” before he is selected to represent his country at the 2014 World Cup. Rubin Kazan forward Sardar Azmoun is a rising star and he is tipped to win senior honors at the big event in Brazil.
Premier League side Arsenal are understood to have tabled a £2 million bid for the 19-year-old player while Italian duo AC Milan and Juventus are also said to be interested. Barcelona were tracking the player cooled their interest once they were slapped with a 14-month transfer ban for breaching rules with regards to signing players under 18.
Dubbed the Iranian equivalent to Argentina and Barça forward Lionel Messi, he left Iranian side Sepahan to join Russian Premier League side Rubin last year despite a firm offer from Internazionale in Italy. Having scored 19 goals in 17 games at U20 level, Azmoun has been tipped for greatness and is expected to be called up by Iran national team coach, Carlos Queiroz. While the valuation Arsenal have put on the player seems paltry, once he puts in a handful of decent performances at international level, his price will rocket into double figures. Also, the introduction of UEFA Financial Fair Play Regulations means clubs must be more discerning when they buy players. Before the regulations were brought in, a number of rich clubs operated at a loss knowing they had seemingly endless streams of cash to support them.
The general feeling is Azmoun may not be ready for a move to one of Europe’s top leagues and Rubin will want to keep hold of the player until his value rises. To sell him for anything close to £2 million would mean little reward for the time and effort they have invested in the player. Rubin also realize his potential and know they could be fielding offers worth 10 times as much in a short space of time.
Azmoun is still relatively unknown in the football world, but clips of him on YouTube and Arsenal’s formal bid for the player have catapulted him to the attention of many soccer fans. The fact he is better-known by the moniker “Iranian Messi” than his real name means Azmoun is becoming more conspicuous by the day and that will only make him a target for more of Europe’s elite clubs. Arsenal boss Arsène Wenger is renowned for signing young foreign talent and developing them into top class players. However, the Frenchman is also known to be reluctant to spend big money on individuals – the club record £40 million Arsenal paid Real Madrid for Mesut Özil last summer was a significant departure for Wenger. Having made a bright start to this season, the German has faded in recent months and so Wenger may want to revert to finding lesser-known talent. If he wants to sign the “Iranian Messi”, he may need to act fast.
World Cup Preview is an ongoing daily column of commentary, news and analysis of the teams and players participating in this year’s World Cup in Brazil
Commentary by Robert Shepherd