Right on Time
Contrary to what many people might think, selecting Iran’s top player wasn’t easy, that’s why my colleague Alex called a tie between Sardar Azmoun and Mehdi Taremi. As for the under-the-radar player, it was a bit different. Alireza Jahanbakhsh is a certified talent, but he doesn’t like being in the spotlight. Plus, he missed much of last season through injury.
Luckily for him, and the team, there’s plenty of time for him to get back on track. I can assure you that Azmoun and Taremi need Jahanbakhsh on the pitch to fully shine in the 2022 World Cup.
Jahanbakhsh’s career started in the Iranian second division. One season (2010-11) with Damash Tehran, in which he appeared in 12 games, was enough for Damash Gilan, a team from the Persian Gulf Pro League to set eyes on him.
He played for Damash Gilan the following two seasons, scoring 11 goals in 50 games. After becoming a real threat despite playing in midfield, several European clubs showed interest in him. NEC, from the Eredivisie, won the bidding war.
In his first season in Netherlands (2013-14), he ended up scoring six goals in 33 games. NEC expected more that’s why they sent him to play in the Eerste Divisie (second-highest tier). He took it personally and scored twice as many goals in fewer games.
He left NEC to join AZ Alkmaar, where he became an idol. He played with the Cheeseheads for three seasons. In the 2017-18 campaign, he scored 22 goals in 39 games. He was the Eredivisie top scorer with 21 goals, making him the first Asian player to become top scorer in a major European league.
Brighton, from the English Premier League, knocked on his door and offered him a long-term contract. He signed in no time but couldn’t meet expectations. He ended up playing there for three seasons, in which he scored only four goals.
That’s when Feyenoord offered him to return “home”. In his first season in Rotterdam, he scored eight goals in 42 games. Last season, as mentioned before, he didn’t play much due to injury.
With the Persian Stars
In 2013, Carlos Queiroz was Iran’s senior team head coach. He called up Jahanbakhsh for the first time in October 2013. One week later, he made his debut as a substitute in a game against Thailand. One month later, he scored his first goals with the Persian Stars in a 3-0 victory, also against Thailand.
Having played in two major European leagues, Jahanbakhsh couldn’t be missing from the 23-man squad for the 2018 WC. He played all three group matches against Morocco, Spain and Portugal. The Persian Stars finished with a 1-1-1 record, which wasn’t enough to advance.
Most recently, he contributed for Iran to reach the 2019 AFC Asian Cup Semifinals, in which they lost 3-0 to Japan. He scored one goal.
Overall, he has played for the Persian Stars in 62 games, scoring 13 goals. Regarding the current squad, only Ehsan Hajsafi and Azmoun have played in more games than him with 119 and 63. When it comes to goals, only Azmoun and Taremi have scored more with 40 and 27.
Iran in the 2022 World Cup
Iran will face England, Wales, and USA in Group B. As expected, the Three Lions command the soccer lines to win it at -300. As for the Persian Stars, they’re offering a +1600 price. Considering Iran has never been able to advance to the Round of 16, that’s not a surprise.