There are many talents to be found in the football-crazy nation of Iran, but amongst young players, one in particular stands out for his consistent goal-scoring record. Twenty-year-old striker Sardar Azmoun is amongst the top scorers of Iran at the youth level, scoring 30 goals in Under-17, Under-20 and Under-23 competitions. His great eye for the goal drew the attention of top Russian club Rubin Kazan’s scouts.
After joining the Russian Premier League side in January 2013, Azmoun’s two goals in eight appearances for the reserves earned him a quick promotion to the senior squad. He immediately proved his worth by scoring his debut goal in their UEFA Europa League match against Serbia’s Jagodina.
Azmoun’s 11 goals in the RPL earned him not only a call-up to Iran’s national team for World Cup qualifying, but also an offer from Arsenal and interest from Barcelona, Tottenham, and Juventus. But he rejected the offers, opting to stay in Russian.
With his 3-month loan at Rostov coming to an end, many are beginning to speculate what the future holds for the Gonbad native. He speak to Mehrdad Mirzaei for Football Channel Asia on his recent form and upcoming prospects.
After being a part of Rubin Kazan for two seasons, why did you join Rostov?
There was a time in Rubin Kazan when I lost my motivation and accordingly my concentration, thus I decided to move to Rostov.
I knew that Kurban Berdyev, my former manager at Rubin Kazan, was at Rostov. He was a great coach and he completely knew how to get the best out of me. When I first joined Rubin Kazan, he was there so we had a good relationship and that was one of the reasons I chose to move to Rostov on loan.
But the main reason was that I wanted to play and regain my confidence.
You scored four goals for Rostov, the last of which helped the club remain in the first division. How do you consider your performance during the loan?
I really enjoyed my time at Rostov. I had a fantastic time there, though at first there were some difficulties for me. Fortunately I have a great relationship with players and staff. I expected more of myself; I expected to score more. I tried to show my ability, but it is the coach who would rate my performance, not myself. As a whole, it was a good experience for me.
How would you assess your two seasons in Russia? You left Iran as a teenager and joined a team in a much better league than Iran. You rejected lucrative offers from Iranian’s biggest clubs. What was the reason for your decision?
It was a hard decision to leave Iran at 18 years old. I just wanted to focus on myself to be a better player and develop my skills. I talked with my family and left Iran. At first I experienced a challenging period. Gradually I adapted to new conditions and now I am satisfied with all that happened to me, but I can be much better than what I am right now. I hope to grow and become a better player in future.
Is it your priority to join a ‘Top 5′ league?
No. I have a contract with FC Rubin Kazan and I would love to extend my contract, because as you know the World Cup will be played in Russia and clubs here are getting stronger. I would like to remain and enjoy my football here.
Talk to us about Iran’s national team after the World Cup. As you know, Carlos Queiroz has invited many young players to the team. What do you think of his transition plans?
I totally agree [with them] and I hope these young player shine for national team in the future. We need to keep this attention on youth. I am also familiar with many of the young invitees. Carlos Queiroz knows what he is doing and will guide them correctly. In addition, experienced players such as Andranik Teymourian and Masoud Shojaei have helped us grow.
The only thing that I am worried about is the lack of facilities that the Football Federation of Iran (FFIRI) has prepared for us. We work for a nation, and the FFIRI should support us and prepare the best facilities for us.
FCA thanks Mehrdad Mirzaei and Niloufar Momeni for helping to arrange this interview.