Opinion

Reza Ghoochannejhad - Bad for defences, good for the A-League going forward

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Sydney FC fans should be rubbing their hands at the prospect of Reza Ghoochannejhad - a true Asian star of the last decade.

Should the 31-year-old succeed down under, and he should with his love of running at defenders and penchant for shooting from anywhere, then perhaps other A-League clubs will take note.

This is an age group that could be a fruitful one to keep in mind for Sydney’s rivals.

It is true that some Asian stars, though not all, at the peak of their careers, mid to late 20s, may well be too expensive for Australian clubs.

And there are also those, a little younger perhaps, who are concerned, rightly or wrongly, that a move to the A-League will damage their international prospects.

Not because there is a concern about the standard, but more of a worry that they will fall off the radar of coaches who may not be as ready to venture to check on Australian-based players as opposed to those in Europe or the Middle East.

 

But those who are in their early 30s are often finished with the national team or less concerned about what coaches may or may not think.

Not only that, as they hit the big 30, many start to look ahead to the end  of their careers, and especially those with families, often speak in positive terms about heading to Australia.

The lifestyle, the English and education can be big drawcards.

There have been some of well-known Korean and Japanese stars over the years who have wanted to come at wages that were not eye-watering by any stretch but it never happened.

 

Perhaps ‘Gucci’ will break through that barrier as he had broken through defences in Asia and Europe. He is certainly capable of it.

It was his nine goals in his first 11 games (his international debut was delayed due to visa issues) that did so much to take Iran to the 2014 FIFA World Cup, at the time he was probably the most in-form forward in Asia. His was the goal, well-taken and as coolly finished as always that booked the team’s place in Brazil.

I was there that night in South Korea when he scored, stealing the ball from a dithering defender on the right side to bear down on goal to curl a left-footed shot past the goalkeeper from the edge of the area.

He was also the only Iranian to find the target in Brazil that June.

It was expected that he would then move to the next level though club struggles held him back.

If there has been a negative in his career it has been a choice of clubs and jumping around a little too much.

Being stuck with a struggling Charlton team at the peak of his international career was unfortunate.

It was a period of instability in Southeast London and he was to be at the club (as well as two short loan periods in the Middle East) for almost two and a half years and eight different coaches.

With the club dropping into the third tier, it was not a stage or environment for the forward to shine.

He returned back to the Netherlands, where he emigrated to at the age of four and went on to spend his football years in the academy at Heerenveen.

At the same club in the 2016-17 season, he scored 20 goals in the Eredivisie, a tally that was recorded less than two years ago.

This is a player who has been scoring goals at a good European level in recent times and went to the last World Cup.

It was there that he sat on the bench after losing his place to the talented Sardar Azmoun as Iran almost made it out of the toughest group in the tournament.

It was then that he decided to call it a day with Team Melli. It will be interesting to see how closely fans back home follow his Australian adventure.

His focus though will all be on Sydney and that could spell bad news for the rest of the A-League for this season.

In the long-term however, it could be exactly what the league needs.