AFC – TEHRAN, Persepolis striker Mehdi Taremi believes his recent success at the AFC Champions League can be attributed to his rise to prominence within the Islamic Republic of Iran national team as the 2017 edition’s top scoring Asian player prepares for the visit of Al Rayyan on Monday night.
The 24-year-old is currently on a red-hot streak in front of goal having scored 12 goals in 15 games since the New Year began including back-to-back winners during the recent FIFA 2018 World Cup Russia qualifiers.
Taremi also boasts three in three at the midway stage of the AFC Champions League and yet two years ago, when Taremi experienced his first taste of continental club football, it was a very different story with the forward scoring just a single goal from his eight appearances.
“The first time I was in the AFC Champions League  it was more difficult for me. There was a lot of pressure on me as I’d joined a big club in Persepolis at the beginning of the 2014-2015 season and my form was suffering,” said Taremi. “I wasn’t able to deal with the attention and expectation placed upon me and my confidence dropped.
“But now, because I’ve been in the senior national team setup for one year, I have much more confidence. I’ve been working with [Iran coach] Carlos Queiroz a lot and that has had a big impact on me.
“That good experience has allowed me to transfer the confidence from the national team into my club form in the domestic championship and the AFC Champions League.”
The Persepolis number nine has gone from strength to strength since his side suffered a Round of 16 elimination at the 2015 AFC Champion League elimination; improving his 2014-2015 league tally from seven goals to 16 in the following season. In the current Iran Pro League championship, the man from Bushehr city has already netted 14 times for a Persepolis side that are currently 11 points clear at the top of the standings.
But with just four fixtures remaining in the 2016-2017 league season, Taremi and Persepolis are focused on glory at a continental level.
It has been 24 years since an Iranian side were crowned Asian kings and seven years since one reached the final [Zobahan in 2010] and Persepolis would dearly love to start lowering the deficit of continental titles that exists between them and fierce city rivals Esteghlal, who are two-time champions.
“We have our AFC Champions League targets at Persepolis and we hope to achieve them,” said Taremi.
“The number one target is to qualify for the knockout stage and the second is to win the AFC Champions League.”
Photos: Lagardère Sports