Ones To Watch – Sardar Azmoun

Following the rumours of Sardar Azmoun being linked with Liverpool, we at Russian Football News were inundated with requests and questions for information about this talented front man, who very few knew about. Inspired by this, we have decided to start a new series – Ones To Watch – a collection of informative articles, detailing the top young talents in the Russia, looking at how they have progressed in their career, before highlighting the players’ strengths and weaknesses, and finally a glance to the future.

The qualifications are simple, the player must be (at time of writing) be 22 years old or younger. If we deem them talented enough, they’ll be written about. But that’s enough waffle, let’s get to it.

Biography

Name: Sardar Azmoun

DOB/Age: 01/01/1995 – 21 years old

Club: FC Rostov

Position: Striker

Nationality: Iran

sardar azmoun

Career to Date

Azmoun moved to Russia in January 2013 at the age of 17, as he joined Rubin Kazan – then managed by Kurban Berdyev. After spending six months in the reserve team, he made his senior breakthrough in Rubin’s Europa League qualifying campaign at the start of the 2013/2014 season – one month later he had his first senior goal, once against a substitute in a Europe League game. The sub appearances kept coming, and he marked his league debut as a substitute with a goal and assist as an 18 year old another month later. His continuing form attracted attention, and in early 2014, Rubin reportedly rejected offers from Arsenal, Liverpool and Zenit St. Petersburg for the then 19-year-old.

Azmoun maintained his first team place for another year or so, but after falling to 2nd choice, he moved on loan to FC Rostov to reunite with the aforementioned Berdyev, who had joined Rostov after being sacked by Rubin. His performances allowed Rostov to maintain their place in the top flight, scoring the winning goal in the relegation play-off, and after falling out with Rubin’s new management in the summer that followed, he once more returned to Rostov on loan.

The 2015/2016 season would be his best to date, as his eye-catching performances helped fire Rostov to 2nd place in the Premier League, just one point behind CSKA Moscow, qualifying for the Champions League. Rubin were keen for Azmoun to return the club following this season, however Rostov were insistent that they could sign the player by truggering a clause in his contract. The player went AWOL and eventually did wind up back at Rostov, though Rubin are still contesting in court. However, the move is possibly the right thing for Azmoun as this is the platform the striker needed to take his game to the next level, and impressive games against Ajax, Anderlecht and Atletico Madrid have reportedly caught the attention of Liverpool and Ajax.

Strengths

Azmoun is a well-rounded, complete striker. He has technical ability, he has speed, he has height, he can finish and he is an expert header of the ball.  The latter is by far his best quality, and his astounding leap, combined with a very powerful and accurate header is a lethal combination in a league which can often be quite hard to break down on the ground. The goal below is a quite stunning example of his aerial prowess. Rostov’s deep 5-3-2 formation means he is often isolated, but his excellent attacking work rate means that he can create chances from nothing, making long clearances into good passes, and causing a constant headache for defenders as he and his strike partner never give them a moments rest.

Weaknesses

Azmoun’s physical strength is possibly of the weakest area of his game. Despite being 6’1, 185 cm, he is quite a slender player, and so relies on acceleration and positioning to escape defenders, rather than strength. You wouldn’t see him bully a defender before scoring a header, but rather make a well-timed run and jump to gain the aerial advantage. Another downside is that he is quite one footed, and when forced, his left footed finishing leaves a lot to be desired. His attitude is also questionable, and he has been sent off and booked for petty offences in the past, while his off the pitch behaviour is also viewed as unorthodox by many of his supporters, with his relationship with former club Rubin criticised, as well as his presence in the media – social and public.

What’s Next?

As mentioned previously, he has had interest from a number of top sides over the years, most recently is the reported interest from Liverpool and Ajax. Azmoun will turn 22 on 1st Jan, and this is an important time in his career, one wrong move could mean all his hard work is for nothing if he joins a top club only to sit on the bench. He needs to continue playing football, while advancing the level of his opponents. Regular European football would be a huge advantage, so while Liverpool may be the more attractive option on paper, Ajax may be more suitable for his career, although it may not necessarily be the domestic step up he needs to continue improving.


Follow David on Twitter: @RFN_David

Author: David Sansun

Arsenal and Rubin Kazan fan. Possibly too optimistic for Russian football which means I’m left disappointed a lot.

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