The Iranian "Lethal Weapon"

This has been a landmark week for Asian and Middle Eastern football in Europe. While the whole world focused on the US pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, in Holland, another Iranian "lethal weapon" was making headlines.

On Sunday, Alireza Jahanbakhsh - the Iranian winger of AZ Alkmaar - scored a hat-trick in his team's 6-0 victory over FC Zwolle on the final matchday of the Dutch Eredivise season. 

Aside the fact that it was Jahanbakhsh's second hat-trick in his past three matches, these three goals left him as the top goal-scorer in Holland. 

The 24-year-old has scored 21 goals, made 12 assists, completed 78 key passes and 111 successful dribbles in 2017/2018 - in what has arguably been the best ever season for an Iranian footballer in Europe. Jahanbakhsh becomes the first Asian player to become top scorer in a major European league.

 The great Iranian hope for the World Cup. Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Getty Images)

The great Iranian hope for the World Cup. Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Getty Images)

No other famous Iranian footballer - including Ali Daei, Mehdi Mahadivikia or Ali Karimi - had such a statistical feat in one European season, hinting that the young Jirandeh-born striker might be on his way to becoming one of the greatest Iranian footballers of all time.

Carlos Queiroz and his Iranian national team will now get a top forward in top form for the World Cup, and Jahanbakhsh has been linked with few notable clubs in Europe - with Italian side Napoli reported to be the favourite to add the young starlet to their squad.

Jahanbakhsh is part of a wider range of talented Iranian prospects that have made their mark in European teams in the past season. 

Karim Ansarifard of Olympiakos in Greece notched up 17 goals this season; Heerenveen's Reza Ghoochannejhad scored 10 for the Dutch club; Kaveh Rezaei contributed 16 goals for Charleroi in Belgium; and Saman Ghoddos - who was a key figure in Ostersunds' Europa League run - finished with nine goals and five assists for the Swedish side.

With the return of Masoud Shojaei to the Iran squad, even if not in an active role on the pitch, and Sardar Azmoun - who will play at his club town of Kazan against Spain - the Iranians have a few fantastic reasons to be optimistic for the forthcoming summer in Russia.
 

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