Iran superstar heads to the premiership in record fee

The Persian Seagull: Iranian superstar Alireza Jahanbakhsh heads to Premiership team Brighton for record fee
3 min read
30 Jul, 2018
The most expensive Iranian player of all time is heading for England's Premier League with Brighton and Hove Albion.
Alireza Jahanbakhsh is Brighton and Hove Albion's record signing. [Getty]

After Iran crashed out of the 2018 World Cup despite their admirable performances in one of the tournament's toughest groups, Team Melli's star striker Alireza Jahanbakhsh took a moment to speak to The New Arab.

"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 team or an Italian Serie A club," he told us in Kazan.

"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." 

A month later, and Jahanbakhsh has found his match. 

Last week Brighton & Hove Albion announced the signing of the Iranian star from Dutch Eredevisie side AZ Alkmaar for a reported fee of £17 million ($22m), a club record, making Jahanbakhsh the most expensive Iranian player of all time. 

The Iranian international has put pen to paper for a five year contract and is joining The Seagulls' loaded frontline in their second consecutive Premier League season.

Jahanbakhsh's rise is impressive. He started his career in Qazvin's clubs, Payam and Persian, from there to Gilan Damash and Damash Tehran. After scoring 10 goals in one season, he moved to Holland aged 19 and played for NEC Breda.

In 2015, he was named Dutch Second Division player of the year. In 2016, he scored his first Eredivisie goal. In 2017 was named Eredivisie's winger of the season. And he keeps getting better.

Last season, the 24-year-old scored 21 goals, made 12 goal assists, completed 78 key passes and 111 successful runs, in what has arguably been the best season ever for an Iranian player in Europe. Jahanbakhsh also became the first Asian player to become top scorer in a major European league.

No other Iranian footballer, including Ali Daei, Mehdi Mahadivikia or Ali Karimi, has had such a run of success in one European season - a hint that the young lad from Jirandeh might be on his way to becoming one of the greatest Iranian footballers of all time. 

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

In the dressing room, Jahanbakhsh will meet two faces from the Middle East - Israel's Tomer Hemed and Beram Kayal, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, who both play on the Israeli national team.

In 2015, while playing for AZ Alkmaar, Jahanbakhsh refused to play against Maccabi Tel Aviv, one of Israel's most popular teams, in the Europa League group stage. 

That said, a source close to the Brighton deal told The New Arab the situation in England 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.

"At 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 to show that in football, they are all one. He is very excited for his time in England."

Uri Levy runs the popular football blog BabaGol, which covers football and politics focusing on the Middle East. Follow him on Twitter, and read his blog here.