Who Scored – LONDON, Reports have emerged linking Brighton and Leicester with Eredivisie star Alireza Jahanbakhsh, while the player’s agent has gone one further and confirmed AZ Alkmaar are negotiating his transfer with an unnamed foreign club. The 24-year-old even fuelled more speculation through his official Instagram account by suggesting he was flying out of Amsterdam for the final time.
Following his performances last season, it’s understandable why Premier League clubs are interested. Jahanbakhsh finished the campaign as the top scorer in the Eredivisie (21 goals), at least two more than any other player. Not only did the Iran international weigh in with a remarkable number of goals from the right flank, he also supplied 12 assists. In fact, Jahanbakhsh was directly involved in 45.8% of the goals AZ scored in the league (33/72).
Jahanbakhsh won the WhoScored Man of the Match award in 14 of his 33 league appearances, the only player in the division to reach double figures for the accolade. By comparison, only Lionel Messi (22) picked up the award more times in Europe’s top five leagues. Jahanbakhsh’s performances over the course of the season garnered a stunning WhoScored rating of 8.20, fractionally less than Ajax’s Hakim Ziyech (8.21), who finished the season as the highest WhoScored rated player in the Eredivisie for the second year running.
Iran exceeded beyond expectations at the 2018 World Cup and almost pulled of a remarkable victory over Euro 2016 winners Portugal to qualify for the knockout stage of the competition. Instead, they finished third with four points from matches against Spain, Portugal and Morocco. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a great tournament for Jahanbakhsh, who struggled for form and fitness. He only started two of their three matches and failed to make any positive impression in Russia.
Despite failing to enhance his reputation, there are still suitors for the Iranian winger. Leicester have already made several savvy investments this summer, but Claude Puel still hasn’t replaced Riyad Mahrez, who joined Manchester City in a deal worth £60m. The former Premier League champions won the race for sought-after Championship starlet James Maddison, but his best position is behind the striker. The 21-year-old created more goalscoring opportunities than any other player in the Championship last season (124), but that’s a huge burden to place on the shoulders of someone so young.
Mahrez played a direct hand in 59 goals in the last three Premier League seasons and his departure has left Puel needing to fill a huge hole. Jahanbakhsh’s performances for AZ last season will only encourage Leicester, having created 20 clear-cut chances in the Eredivisie last season – the second most in the league. Not only that, but only one other player completed more through balls than Jahanbakhsh (9), which is particularly important in getting the best out of Jamie Vardy. While he appears capable of performing the same role as Mahrez, the Foxes should proceed with caution.
Recruiting from Netherlands has often proved problematic in the past. While the likes of Luis Suarez, Robin Van Persie, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ronaldo and Arjen Robben have successfully made the transition from football in Holland to one of Europe’s major leagues, there is an even longer list of names that have failed.
Vincent Janssen moved to Tottenham from AZ in a deal worth £17m in 2016 following his stunning goalscoring exploits, but he only managed two league goals in 28 league matches before being farmed out on loan. Middlesbrough made Afonso Alves their club-record signing from Heerenveen in January 2008 but things didn’t go entirely to plan and he left in September the following year. More recently, Everton signed Ajax captain Davy Klaassen in a £23.6m deal 12 months ago and he has barely kicked a ball since.
These are the risks involved with signing players with Holland. As Memphis Depay showed during his disappointing stint at Manchester United, sometimes the step up in class comes too soon for some, while others, like Van Persie or Suarez, are capable of taking their game to another level entirely. Only time will tell what category Jahanbakhsh fits in to, but it’s hard to ignore someones potential when they are directly involved in a goal a game.