On sunrise of a typical midweek day, a 21-year old football player in Russia woke up to a whole new world in front of him. The young Iranian striker, Sardar Azmoun, has long been admired in his native land and by Rostov’s coaching staff.
But a January offer for him from Liverpool? That is something he probably could not imagine so early in his career.
According to The Guardian, with the loss of Danny Ings and the absence of Sadio Mane – who will participate in the African Cup of Nations next January, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is lining up a move for Sardar Azmoun in the winter transfer window.
The 21-year-old Sardar Azmoun is close to what Klopp would consider a quality striker. Sardar’s spontaneous movement with the ball and quick shots on the goal is likened to that of Messi by some pundits. But that is not enough to be a solid striker. Trained by former Real Madrid coach and current Iran national coach Carlos Queiroz, Sardar has also improved his heading skills. Sardar Azmoun has since established himself as a strong target man for Iran National team, as well as Russia club Rostov. Out of his 8 goals for Iran in the World Cup 2018 Qualification so far, five goals are from headers.
In the Russian league as well as the Champions League this season, he has been particularly impactful in Rostov’s crucial games, scoring 3 out of his 4 goals for the club at Champions League’s group stage. Most prominently, Sardar’s recent goal against Atletico Madrid generated headlines in European media. He has done something extraordinary: breaking one of the tightest defenses among Champions League elites.
The question is, if Liverpool offers a contract to Sardar Azmoun in January, should he go? Is he ready?
The reality is, this is not the first time the 21-year-old wizard has received interest from European teams. Back in 2014, he received an official offer from Inter Milan, with reportedly other interests from Arsenal, Everton, and Juventus. However, he opted to stay at Rubin Kazan to establish himself and gain playing experience.
Five years into his career in the Russian league, he has only established himself as a match-winning striker since 2015. Named as the fifth most valuable player of Russian League last season, he is eyeing top scorer award as well as securing Champions league spot for Rostov by the end of the season. He cannot aim for that in Liverpool halfway into the season if he joins the English club in January.
Apart from that, the concern of adaptability to the heart-racing and physical games of English Premier League is real. Previous transfers from Russian league to English Premier League did not end well for many talented players. The most prominent example is, of course, Andrey Arshavin. The Russian attacker arrived as a Euro 2008 star, only to became a failure for Arsenal. To succeed in the English Premier League, apart from talent, high stamina and solid physical build is required. The evidence is clear, as many Spanish technical players have struggled to adapt in the English Premier League. At this moment, it may be too early to expect that from Sardar Azmoun.
Unless Sardar Azmoun has the patience to warm up the bench until he gains physical endurance to survive EPL games. And perhaps, unless he is mentally ready to change his status from a match-winning starter at a domestic league and Champions League for Rostov to an occasional substitution at Liverpool. If he is not ready to take such risks, then moving to Liverpool, even under the supervision of one of the smartest managers in the world, may not be optimal for Sardar Azmoun come January 2017.