Winners and losers from IPL transfer season

Winners and losers from IPL transfer season

By Nicholas Barkley

With the transfer period finished in the Iranian Pro League (IPL), let’s take a look at who came out the winners and losers of the Iranian silly season:

Winners

Esteghlal

Andranik Teymourian signed with Esteghlal

The Tehran based club signaled it’s intent, with high dollar purchases, to not only challenge for domestic honors after a second place league finish last season, but also for continental accolades. The Blues saw a massive influx of Iranian national team players, including regular starters goalkeeper Mehdi Rahmati, midfielder Andranik Teymourian, and right back Khosrow Heydari (the three have combined for 148 senior caps and all are 28 or younger).

Esteghlal also nabbed Iraq international midfielder Karrar Jassim and Kuwait international Waleed Ali; likely giving them one of the most internationally seasoned starting XI’s in the IPL. An interesting signing for the club, affectionally dubbed ‘SS’ by supporters, was former Iranian international Ferydoon Zandi who had been all but forgotten in the black hole that was once Steel Azin FC. If Zandi can find some semblance of his old form, Esteghlal is likely to be hoisting more than one trophy by seasons end.


Zob Ahan
After losing in the Final of the AFC Asian Champions League last year, Zob Ahan seems to have set it’s sights on winning the competition this time around. By generally keeping their previous squad intact, and adding Iraq international Hawar Mulla Mohammed as well as Portuguese player Hugo Machado, who brings a wealth of European experience with him. While losing star Mohammed Reza Khalatbari to Qatari club Al-Gharafa will certainly sting, Machado and Mohammed should go a long way to cover his absence in a midfield that still features the ever popular Ghasem Hadadifar.


Iran Pro League

Orestes Junior signed for Damash Gilan

The league as a whole benefitted from this transfer season. While it did see some prominent players depart from the IPL such as the aforementioned Khalatbari, and Team Melli defensive fixture Hadi Aghili (who moved to Al-Arabi of Qatar), there were some surprise moves into the league as well. Three players moved to the IPL from Portugal’s first division: Machado, Mamadou Tall left Uniao Leira for Persepolis, and Brazilian Orestes Junior left Naval for recently promoted Damash Gilan. Also Brazilian Rodrigo Tosi traded in the Swiss League for Tractor Sazi of Tabriz. This is not likely to signal a mass exodus from Europe to Iran, however it would seem to dispel some of the notion that Iran is an undesirable place to live or work, and therefore repels some of the higher profile players.

Furthermore, this transfer season saw some an increase of talents arriving from Arab countries, which might be a signal that the quality of the IPL is beginning to win out over the lucrative salaries offered by leagues such as Qatar and UAE. Finally, while neither deal came to fruition, the discussions held by Esteghlal with high profile European players Dede and Pavon are certainly a step in the right direction as the IPL should seek to increase it’s marketability, not to mention quality by attracting these types of players. While it is unlikely that Iran will become the retirement home for former European stars a la the MLS, a few quality additions to each team in the league would go a long way to securing a higher profile as well as more continental honors.


Tehran Derby

The Tehran Derby (held between clubs Esteghlal and Persepolis in their shared home ground of Azadi Stadium in Tehran) has been reduced to a boring and uneventful affair of late. However, with the previously detailed transfers in to Esteghlal, in conjunction with electric midfielder Ali Karimi, and the player some view as his successor, Mehrdad Oladi, both joining Persepolis, this fixture might finally have some life injected into it. While there have been some rumours and accusations that the vitality was deliberately bled out of this matchup by the Islamic Republic’s government to keep emotions low and potentially avoid any post match celebrations evolving into full scale protests or riots, the hype alone surrounding this match-up will be hard to contain. With both sides now featuring the core of the Iranian national team, and each featuring some exciting foreigners, the 2011-2012 Tehran Derby will likely be one to remember.

 

Losers

Karim Ansarifard

Karim Ansarifard

After a long, and drawn out will he, won’t he saga involving Esteghlal, Persepolis and a few European clubs (most notably German side Borussia Dortmund) Karim Ansarifard decided to stand pat and stay with Saipa. Saipa was a midtable team last season, finishing 11th and it does not look likely that they will improve upon that performance. While many had Ansarifard tabbed for a move to Europe and a breakout season, the fact that he stayed in Saipa puzzles on many levels.

First and foremost, at 21, Ansarifard is in the prime of his professional development and what better place to develop than in one of the best professional leagues in the world (Bundesliga)? Barring that, at least a move to one of Iran’s Big Four (Esteghlal, Persepolis, Zob Ahan and Sepahan) would have been a logical progression in his career if he sought to pursue his growth more gradually. Finally, if nothing else a move to a military club (such as Malavan) would have made sense as Ansarifard still has a required two years of military service to perform that could potentially derail a future move to Europe until it is completed (see: Mehrdad Oladi). By signing with Saipa for another year, it means that it will likely be at least another three years before Iran’s most promising young talent so much as touches the grass in Europe, which is certainly disappointing for all involved parties.


Amir Shahpourzadeh

A player who cut his teeth in the German 2nd Bundesliga, and then returned to his ancestral homeland of Iran to play with then upstarts Steel Azin has been left without a first division club at the conclusion of the transfer window. This likely means that he will be forced to move to the Iranian Azadegan League (2nd division). It is a disappointing story for the 28 year old, who despite decent results in Germany only made 4 appearances for the Iranian national team, the most recent of which was in 2008.


Parviz Mazloomi

Parviz Mazloomi will be under pressure

Many might be scratching their heads at the Esteghlal boss’ inclusion in the list of transfer window losers when the team he oversees tops the list of winners. However, it is because of the enormous pressure that will be placed on him to get the most out of his now stacked squad. The Iranian media is not known for it’s patience or benevolence, and should Esteghlal falter early, or at any point, the blame is likely to fall firmly on Mazloomi. Few Iranian coaches have been able to show any kind of resilience in the IPL, with even fan favorite, and former great player Ali Daei getting his fair share of criticism during his managerial tenure at Persepolis. Unless Mazloomi can engineer a wire to wire championship season for Esteghlal, it is likely that the mounting pressure for results could cause this to be his last season with the Tehran club.


Sepahan

The 2010-2011 IPL champs should still challenge for that honor again in 2011-2012, however their chances will be seriously diminished following the events of the transfer season. They lost the core of their strong defense in keeper Mehdi Rahmati, centre-back Hadi Aghili and wing backs Khosrow Heydari and Ehsan Hajsafi. Furthermore the loss of well liked striker Ibrahima Toure will cause further damage to the starting XI. Sepahan did not truly bring in enough talent to cover for these losses, and while they still have a roster better than most in the IPL, their championship defense is now unlikely to be successful.


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