Recent reports suggest that Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is keen on bringing FC Rostov’s young Iranian forward Sardar Azmoun to Anfield in a bid to add more firepower to his side.
The forward who has been dubbed as the “Iranian Messi” and the “next Zlatan Ibrahimovic” by sections of the media has helped Rostov ascend to the top of Russian football with his prolific displays in front of goal and it comes as no surprise that various Western European clubs, including Liverpool’s cross-town rivals Everton and Stoke City are in the race to sign the youngster.
In this segment, we scout the prolific youngster who has aroused the interest of millions of Liverpool fans worldwide and could well become the next big thing to come out of the Russian Premier League.
Born in Gonbad-e Kavus, Iran, Azmoun had a number of stints with various Iranian clubs. He joined his local club Oghad Gonbad as a 9-year-old and then moved to Shamoushak Gorgan and subsequently to Etka Gorgan. However, it was the move to Sepahan from Etka Gorgan that truly worked wonders for the player. He made an instant impact with the club’s youth side and was duly rewarded with caps for his nation’s youth sides and the youngster did not fail to impress.
After catching the eye of scouts worldwide with his displays upfront, the player finally made the much-needed move to Europe when Rubin Kazan decided to snap up the youngster in January 2013. While he had to wait until the next season to make his competitive debut for the club, there was no denying his talent and though he was used sporadically by his club, he did enough to be termed the “next Zlatan Ibrahimovic” by sections of the media.
However, with regular playing time hard to come by at Rubin Kazan, Azmoun moved to FC Rostov in February 2015 and has been an integral part of the club, helping the side that was relegation-threatened when he joined them climb to the 2nd spot in the Russian Premier League in the 2015-16 season and qualify for the UEFA Champions League.
Style of play and strengths
If there is one trait of Azmoun that has truly caught our eye, it is his ability in front of goal. He has the natural instincts of a striker, can create time and space for himself in the box with his first touch and is constantly probing the opposition with his acceleration on the ball and fine dribbling ability. A centre-forward who combines strength and finesse, it is not a surprise that he has been compared to the legendary Zlatan who uses these traits to great effect.
While 23 goals in 75 appearances across all competitions might in itself prove to be a great statistic for a 21-year-old, it is his performances for the national side that have earned him the positive reviews. With 16 goals in 22 appearances for the national team, Sardar definitely knows where the back of the goal is.
However, there is more to his game than just that. He is creative, can link-up well with his attacking colleagues and has shown the ability to also function as an effective number 10 when called upon to do so and we believe his overall game as an attacking threat will only improve with age.
For a player, just 21 years of age, Azmoun has shown incredible decision-making ability in the final third and is not an easy customer to handle in and around the box as he uses his plethora of talent to hurt the opposition time and again.
Iran’s national coach Carlos Queiroz has been a vocal admirer of the youngster and was recently quoted as saying, “He has all the qualities to succeed at the highest level. 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.”
Like every other youngster, Azmoun too has certain aspects of his game which need working upon. For instance, he has a tendency to go missing in games and can also be termed as a player who can be loose in possession of the ball. Another aspect that he needs to work upon is his discipline as he can be reckless at times and that can prove to be detrimental to his progress as one of the best in the business.
Where would he fit in at Liverpool?
While Liverpool have been in marauding form in the current season, they will have a tough task on their hand when Sadio Mane, one of their star players of the current season goes to the African Cup of Nations in January. The manager Jurgen Klopp is already planning ahead and hopes to bring in Azmoun to not only provide him with options during the short period but also to help his side develop another dimension to their game.
Despite the presence of Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi, the side genuinely lacks a traditional centre-forward and the addition of Azmoun to the club could prove to be hugely beneficial to Jurgen Klopp’s side.
However, it remains to be seen if the player can truly replicate his performances in England, should he move, as various other superstars have found the going tough in English conditions.
(Video courtesy: ScoutNationHD YouTube channel)