The Persian Seagull

“I don’t know yet where I’m going to play next season, and it’s less important for me whether it’s a Champions League side, a Premier League side or an Italian Serie A club”, told Alireza Jahanbakhsh, an Iranian National Team star,  to BabaGol in June after Iran lost to Spain in Kazan, in the second matchday of 2018 World Cup Group B. “What is important for me is that it would be a club that will upgrade me as a player and as a person. I hope it would be a club that I will get the right vibe from them”. 

Less then a month later, and Jahanbakhsh have found this exact place. 

This week Brighton & Hove Albion announced the signing of Iranian star from Dutch Eredevisie side AZ Alkmaar for a reportedly fee of 17 million pounds, a club record and what made Jahanbakhsh the most expensive Iranian player of all time. 

The Iranian international have put pen to paper for five years contract and will join the loaded frontline of the Seagulls. 

Jahanbakhsh’s meteoric rise is impressive. He had started his career in Qazvin’s clubs Payam & Persian, from there to Gilan Damash & Damash Tehran in Iran. After a season of 10 goals, he moved to Holland at 19 years old and played for NEC Breda. At 2015, he has been chosen as Dutch 2nd Division player of the year; In 2016 he scored his first Eredivisie goal; In 2017 he was picked as the Eredivise’s winger of the season. The peak was yet there. 

Last season, the 24 years old has scored 21 goals, passed 12 assists, completed 78 key passes and 111 successful dribbles in 2017/2018, in what has been, arguably, the best season ever of an Iranian player in Europe. Jahanbakhsh became the first Asian player to become top scorer in a major European league.

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

There is no doubt Chris Hughton will benefit from Jahanbakhsh presence in squad, as the Iranian is a versatile and flamboyant forward who can play as a winger, wide winger, a forward and a striker. 

In the dressing room, Jahanbakhsh will meet two faces from the Middle East - Israeli duo Tomer Hemed and Beram Kayal, an Israeli-Palestinian, who both represent the Israeli national team. It would be interesting to see how this combination will work out, as in 2015 while playing for AZ Alkmaar, Jahanbakhsh refused to play against Israeli club Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Europa League group stage. 

Though, a source who was close to the Brighton deal informed BabaGol that the situation is completely different. "Alireza was young when Alkmaar played the Israeli team and he was afraid about his future. It's not an issue when Iranian players play with Israeli teammates, only if they play against them. In the end of the day football is a profession. I can tell you that Reza is very excited to play alongside a Jewish teammate and in general, to show that in football, they are all one. He is very excited for his time in England". 

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Thumbnail photo by AP