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Sardar Azmoun (Persian: سردار آزمون‎; born 1 January 1995) is an Iranian professional footballer who plays for Russian club Zenit St. Petersburg as a forward.

Sardar Azmoun
Sardar Azmoun 2019-08-30.jpg
Azmoun with Zenit in 2019
Personal information
Full name Sardar Azmoun
Date of birth (1995-01-01) 1 January 1995 (age 24)
Place of birth Gonbad-e Kavus, Iran[1]
Height 1.86 m (6 ft 1 in)[2]
Playing position Forward
Club information
Current team
Zenit St. Petersburg
Number 7
Youth career
2004–2008 Oghab Gonbad
2008–2009 Shamoushak Gorgan
2009–2010 Etka Gorgan
2010–2013 Sepahan
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2011–2013 Sepahan 0 (0)
2013–2016 Rubin Kazan 27 (5)
2015–2016Rostov (loan) 35 (12)
2016–2017 Rostov 27 (7)
2017–2019 Rubin Kazan 40 (9)
2019– Zenit St. Petersburg 27 (14)
National team
2009–2011 Iran U17 6 (7)
2011–2014 Iran U20 19 (19)
2015 Iran U23 4 (4)
2014– Iran 50 (32)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 10 November 2019
‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 14 November 2019

Since making his debut for the Iran national team in 2014, Azmoun has played in the 2015 and 2019 AFC Asian Cups and the 2018 FIFA World Cup. He is also Iran's fifth all-time highest goalscorer.

Club careerEdit

Early yearsEdit

Azmoun started to play club football in Turkmenistan[3][4][5][6] when he was 9.[7] He began his career at Oghab Gonbad of Gonbad-e Kavus.[8] He also played volleyball and was invited to Iran's national under-15 volleyball team.[7] After some years, he joined Shamoushak Gorgan, before joining Etka Gorgan, who were playing in Division 1 in Iran at the time.[9]

SepahanEdit

At age 15, Azmoun joined Sepahan's youth ranks.[8] While he appeared for the club during their preseason friendlies abroad in Turkey, he did not make a professional appearance for the club as Sepahan won the 2011–12 Iran Pro League and lifted the trophy.[7]

During the 2012–13 season, thanks to Azmoun's great display in Iran's youth team, Sardar became sought after by a couple of European clubs, namely Rubin Kazan.[10] Azmoun became Iran's youngest Legionnaire when later that year he transferred to Rubin Kazan at the age of 17.[8]

Rubin KazanEdit

2012–13 seasonEdit

In January 2013, Azmoun received an offer from Russian team Rubin Kazan to join them; meanwhile he had interest from two Iranian teams, Persepolis and Esteghlal, as well as an offer for first team contract in Sepahan. He chose to work with Turkmen speaking Kurban Berdyev and became Iran's first football player in the Russian Premier League.[8][11] In his first season at the club, he made 8 appearances for his club's reserve team, scoring two goals and receiving one yellow card. He was also picked for the 18-man match day squad on a number of occasions, but failed to make his senior debut.

2013–14 seasonEdit

 
Azmoun in training with Rubin Kazan

On 25 July 2013, Azmoun made his debut for the senior team in a UEFA Europa League match against Jagodina, coming on as a 73rd-minute substitute as Rubin won 1–0.[12] On 29 August, he scored his first goal in just his second senior appearance for Rubin in a 3–0 Europa League win against Molde, coming on as a substitute in the 64th minute.[13] He made his league debut with a goal and an assist on 6 October 2013, coming on as a substitute in the 72nd minute in a 5–1 win over Anzhi Makhachkala.

On 27 March 2014, English Premier League side Arsenal reportedly made a £2 million offer to Kazan for the transfer of 19-year-old Azmoun, sparking interest from A.C. Milan, Juventus, Liverpool, Tottenham, and Barcelona as well.[14][15][16]

Three days later, he scored his second league goal for Rubin Kazan in a 2–1 defeat to Rostov.[17] On 6 April, he scored a goal in Rubin Kazan's defeat to Zenit St. Petersburg.[18] In a match against Krylia Sovetov on 10 May, Azmoun came on as a substitute in the 55th minute, scoring a goal and providing an assist in a 4–0 win.[19][20]

2014–15 seasonEdit

On 4 July 2014, Rubin Kazan announced through their official website that Azmoun would remain at the club despite transfer offers from Arsenal, Liverpool and Zenit St. Petersburg. He scored Rubin Kazan's goal in a 1–1 draw against Hellas Verona in a pre-season friendly match on 27 July 2014. He scored his first goal of the season in a 1–1 draw against Terek Grozny in the 87th minute. On 30 October, he scored a goal in their victory over Spartak Moscow in the 2014–15 Russian Cup.[21]

RostovEdit

 
Azmoun playing for Rostov against Kuban Krasnodar on 16 March 2015

On 26 February 2015, Azmoun signed a three-and-a-half-month loan deal with relegation-battling Russian Premier League club FC Rostov until the end of the season.[22][23][24] On 16 March, Azmoun came on as a substitute in the 73rd minute and scored the match winner in the 88th minute against Kuban Krasnodar.[25] Azmoun again found the back of the net on 26 April 2015 in Rostov's 2–2 draw against Dynamo Moscow. His good performance earned him a place on the Russian Premier League Team of the Week.[26] He scored Rostov's winning goal in the relegation play-offs on 7 June.

2015–16 seasonEdit

At the end of the 2014–15 season, Azmoun extended his loan deal with Rostov until the end of the 2015–16 season.[27][28] He scored his first goal of the season on 22 August 2015 in a 2–1 loss to CSKA Moscow. After his good performances in the first half of the season, he was linked with English Premier League club Stoke City.[29] Later in March 2016 he was also linked with a move to English side Everton.[30][31][32]

After a long goalless drought, Azmoun scored in Rostov's 3–0 win against Zenit Saint Petersburg on 24 April 2016. He scored a brace in a 3–1 victory over Dynamo Moscow on 12 May 2016, which kept Rostov in second place and in contention for the Russian Premier League championship. On 16 May 2016 with his goal, Rostov defeated Ural 1–0 and clinched at least an UEFA Champions League play–off spot for the 2016–17 season. His goal against Ural was his fifth consecutive game with a goal which included 6 goals in 5 games.

On the last day of the Russian Premier League on 21 May 2016 needing a win and CSKA Moscow to drop points to become champions, Azmoun assisted Rostov's first goal in their 2–0 win against Terek Grozny. However, CSKA won their match and Rostov finished as runners up, thus securing a UEFA Champions League playoff spot.

Azmoun finished seventh in league scoring with nine goals, despite getting half as much playing time as some other top scorers.[33] He was also voted as the fifth most valuable player of the league, narrowly behind players such as Fyodor Smolov, Moussa Doumbia, and Brazilian superstar Hulk.[34]

2016–17 seasonEdit

 
Azmoun in match against Ajax in 2016

Initially it was announced that Azmoun would return to Rubin Kazan. However, Rostov triggered the buy out clause in Azmoun's contract. Rubin denied this clause and claimed Azmoun was their player. Rubin lodged a complaint with FIFA. FC Rostov filed a counter-complaint with the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and on 22 July 2016 CAS temporarily ruled in favour of Azmoun and he was included in Rostov's UEFA Champions League squad.[35] According to Rostov's lawyer Yuri Zaytsev, the final CAS decision on his status might not be reached until late 2016 or even the summer of 2017.[36]

Azmoun made his Champions League debut on 26 July 2016 in the first leg of a third-round qualifying round match against Anderlecht at Olimp – 2, coming on for Aleksandr Bukharov at the 56th minute.[37] He started in the return leg on 3 August 2016 and scored his first Champions League goal in the 47th minute, helping Rostov advance 4–2 on aggregate.[38] He scored his second Champions League goal on 24 August 2016 in the return leg of the playoff round match against Ajax, scoring the opening goal in a 4–1 victory which resulted in Rostov advancing to the group stage of the Champions League for the first time.[39] Azmoun scored on 1 November 2016 in a Rostov's 2–1 Champions League group stage loss against Atlético Madrid. In the process, he became the first Iranian to score in the Champions League group stage since Ali Karimi in 2005. On 23 November 2016, Azmoun scored his second Champions League goal in the group stage against Bayern Munich at home, leading Rostov to a 3–2 victory and their first ever official Champions League group stage win.

After his good performances and goals in the UEFA Champions League, Azmoun drew interest from European giants such as Marseille, Liverpool, Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund, and Bayer Leverkusen.[40][41][42]

On 6 November 2016, Azmoun scored his first Russian Premier League goal of the 2016–17 season in a 4–1 victory. He scored his second goal of the season on 28 November against Anzhi Makhachkala. On 26 January 2017, FIFA rejected appeals by Rubin Kazan related to Azmoun's transfer to Rostov and ruled that there were no obligations outstanding towards Rubin.[43] On 3 March 2017, in the first league game after the end of the winter break, Azmoun scored twice in a 6–0 victory against FC Tom Tomsk.[44] He scored another brace against his former side Rubin Kazan.

After the end of the 2016–17 season, Azmoun received interest from Scottish side Celtic, English Premier League club Everton, and La Liga side Valencia.[45][46]

Return to Rubin KazanEdit

2017–18Edit

 
Azmoun playing for Rubin Kazan in 2017

In June 2017, Azmoun returned to Rubin Kazan. He appeared in a friendly on 28 June 2017 as a second-half substitute, wearing number 69.[47] FC Rostov confirmed the transfer agreement with Rubin on 14 July 2017.[48][49]

Zenit Saint PetersburgEdit

On 1 February 2019, he signed a 3.5-year contract with Zenit St. Petersburg.[50] Sardar scored two goals and registered one assist in his debut start for Zenit against Fenerbahçe in the Round of 32 in the UEFA Europa League. He was chosen as the Player of the Week for his outstanding performance by UEFA.[51] On 2 March 2019, he scored the only goal of the game to give Zenit a 1–0 victory over FC Ural Yekaterinburg in his Russian Premier League debut for the team.[52] On 31 March 2019, in a home game he doubled against FC Orenburg.[53] On 17 September 2019, Azmoun scored the first goal of the 2019–20 UEFA Champions League group stage in his Champions League debut for Zenit against Olympique Lyonnais.[54] With a goal against Benfica in the following match, he surpassed Mehdi Mahdavikia and Ali Daei to become the most prolific Iranian goal scorer in the UEFA Champions League with four goals.[55]

International careerEdit

 
Azmoun playing for Iran in a 2014 friendly match against Montenegro

YouthEdit

Azmoun broke out while representing the Iran U-20 side, becoming top scorer of the 2012 Commonwealth of Independent States Cup, scoring seven goals in six games. On 8 October 2013, he played for the U-20 team during the 2014 AFC U-19 Championship qualification in Kerman. In a match against Lebanon, he captained the team by scoring two goals, assisting one and drawing a penalty.[56]

Azmoun was called into the U-23's team for Olympic qualifiers in March 2015.[57] He was the tournament's leading goalscorer going into the final matchday with 4 goals in 3 matches. As the 2016 AFC U-23 Championship was not held during the FIFA International Match Calendar, he was not released by Rostov.[58]

SeniorEdit

On 5 October 2013, Azmoun was called up to the Iranian national football team against Thailand by Carlos Queiroz.[59][60] He was selected in Iran's 28-man provisional squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup by Queiroz but was one of five players being dropped from the final squad.[61]

Azmoun made his senior debut on 26 May 2014 in a friendly match against Montenegro, coming on as a substitute in the 60th minute for Reza Ghoochannejhad.[62] However, he was not included in Iran's squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, announced on 1 June 2014.[63] He scored his first goal on 18 November 2014 in a 1–0 friendly win over South Korea.[64]

Azmoun was called into Iran's 2015 AFC Asian Cup squad on 30 December 2014 by Carlos Queiroz.[65] He scored a goal in the next match, a 1–0 friendly win over rivals Iraq. He then scored the winner in the second game of the Asian Cup with a great piece of individual skill against Qatar.[66] He also opened the scoring against Iraq in the quarter-finals with a header.

On 16 June 2015, Azmoun scored a goal against Turkmenistan in a 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier. On 3 September 2015, he scored his first senior brace in a 6–0 defeat of Guam in the World Cup qualifiers.[67] He scored his first hat-trick for Iranian national team in 3–0 win over Macedonia at Philip II Arena on 2 June 2016. Eight days later, he scored the first goal in Iran's 2–0 win over Uzbekistan which secured qualification to the 2018 FIFA World Cup.[68] In June 2018 he was named in Iran's final squad for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.[69] He made his first World Cup appearance in a 1–0 victory over Morocco in their first group stage match on 15 June.[70]

Azmoun retired from International football at the age of 23 just after Iran's 2018 World Cup exit due to heavy criticism he faced from fans. The criticism caused his mother's illness to worsen and as a result, Azmoun chose to retire to be by his mother's side.[71]

In October 2018, Azmoun returned to the Iranian national team and was called up for 2019 AFC Asian Cup by Carlos Queiroz.[72]

Style of playEdit

Azmoun has been praised for his aerial ability, creativity, and bursts of acceleration.[73] He has been referred to as a young Zlatan Ibrahimović[74] and has also been called the Iranian Messi by mainly British media.[30]

Azmoun has also been touted to be the heir of legendary Iranian striker Ali Daei.[75]

Personal lifeEdit

Azmoun was born into a Sunni family[76] of Iranian Turkmen origin.[77][78] He speaks Turkmen and Persian fluently, and is fond of riding on horseback. He communicates with Kurban Berdyev, his Turkmenistani coach at FC Rubin Kazan and FC Rostov, in Turkmen.[79] He decided to wear number 69 at Kazan as a tribute to his hometown's vehicle registration plate.[7] Azmoun has stated he is a supporter of Spanish club Real Madrid [80] in the future he has expressed interest in playing for Tractor Sazi in the Persian Gulf Pro League.[81]

He is the son of Khalil Azmoun, a former Iranian national volleyball team player who has coached several volleyball teams, such as Golgohar Sirjan and Javaheri Gonbad VC.[82]

Azmoun decided to retire from International football at the age of 23 just after Iran's 2018 World Cup exit due to heavy criticism he faced from fans, as the criticism caused his mother's illness to worsen. As a result, Azmoun chose to retire to be by his mother's side. He has returned to the team after taking this break.[83]

Member of Humanitarian Association of World Turkmens[84][85].

Career statisticsEdit

ClubEdit

As of match played on 11 November 2019[86]
Appearances and goals by club, season and competition
Club Season League Cup Continental Other Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Sepahan 2011–12 Persian Gulf Pro League 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2012–13 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Rubin Kazan[87] 2012–13 Russian Premier League 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2013–14 14 4 1 0 2 1 17 5
2014–15 13 1 2 1 15 2
Total 27 5 3 1 2 1 32 7
Rostov 2014–15 Russian Premier League 11 3 0 0 1 1 12 4
2015–16 24 9 0 0 24 9
2016–17 27 7 0 0 14 5 41 12
Total 62 19 0 0 14 5 1 1 77 25
Rubin Kazan 2017–18 Russian Premier League 26 5 2 0 28 5
2018–19 14 4 3 1 17 5
Total 40 9 5 1 45 10
Zenit St. Petersburg 2018–19 Russian Premier League 12 9 0 0 4 3 16 12
2019–20 15 5 1 0 4 2 1 2 21 9
Total 27 14 1 0 8 5 1 2 37 21
Career total 156 47 9 2 24 11 2 3 191 63

InternationalEdit

As of match played 14 November 2019[88]
International statistics
Team Year Apps Goals
Iran 2014 3 1
2015 11 7
2016 8 8
2017 8 6
2018 10 2
2019 10 8
Total 50 32

International goalsEdit

As of match played 10 October 2019. Iran score listed first, score column indicates score after each Azmoun goal.[86]
No Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1 18 November 2014 Azadi Stadium, Tehran, Iran   South Korea 1–0 1–0 Friendly
2 4 January 2015 WIN Stadium, Wollongong, Australia   Iraq 1–0 1–0
3 15 January 2015 Stadium Australia, Sydney, Australia   Qatar 1–0 1–0 2015 AFC Asian Cup
4 23 January 2015 Canberra Stadium, Bruce, Australia   Iraq 1–0 3–3 (6–7 p)
5 16 June 2015 Sport Toplumy Stadium, Daşoguz, Turkmenistan   Turkmenistan 1–0 1–1 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification
6 3 September 2015 Azadi Stadium, Tehran, Iran   Guam 3–0 6–0
7 4–0
8 8 September 2015 Sree Kanteerava Stadium, Bangalore, India   India 1–0 3–0
9 24 March 2016 Azadi Stadium, Tehran, Iran 2–0 4–0
10 29 March 2016   Oman 1–0 2–0
11 2–0
12 2 June 2016 Philip II Arena, Skopje, Macedonia   North Macedonia 1–0 3–1 Friendly
13 2–1
14 3–1
15 7 June 2016 Azadi Stadium, Tehran, Iran   Kyrgyzstan 5–0 6–0
16 11 October 2016   South Korea 1–0 1–0 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification
17 4 June 2017 Podgorica City Stadium, Podgorica, Montenegro   Montenegro 1–0 2–1 Friendly
18 2–1
19 12 June 2017 Azadi Stadium, Tehran, Iran   Uzbekistan 1–0 2–0 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification
20 5 September 2017   Syria 1–1 2–2
21 2–1
22 10 October 2017 Kazan Arena, Kazan, Russia   Russia 1–0 1–1 Friendly
23 27 March 2018 UCP Arena, Graz, Austria   Algeria 1–0 2–1
24 31 December 2018 Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Qatar   Qatar 2–1 2–1
25 7 January 2019 Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates   Yemen 4–0 5–0 2019 AFC Asian Cup
26 12 January 2019 Al Nahyan Stadium, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates   Vietnam 1–0 2–0
27 2–0
28 24 January 2019 Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates   China PR 2–0 3–0
29 10 September 2019 Hong Kong Stadium, Hong Kong   Hong Kong 1–0 2–0 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification
30 10 October 2019 Azadi Stadium, Tehran, Iran   Cambodia 2–0 14–0
31 5–0
32 7–0

Youth levelEdit

Under-17
Under-20
Under-23

HonoursEdit

ReferencesEdit

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