Scout - Alireza Jahanbakhsh
The Sky Sports Scout has been keeping an eye on rising talent for several seasons, and has already found many players who have gone on to become big hits. This will be no different at the World Cup and here, in association with Wyscout, the Scout looks at Iran's Alireza Jahanbakhsh.
By Sky Sports Scout - @SkySportsScout
Last Updated: 21/05/14 12:30pm
In the build-up to the World Cup finals, the Sky Sports Scout will be taking a closer look at up-and-coming players staking a claim for national-team action this summer.
The Scout is on the hunt for talented stars of tomorrow who could shine in Brazil and make a name for themselves on the biggest stage.
Using the world's leading scouting resource Wyscout (for more information, read our full feature here), he will seek to highlight each selected player's key qualities and provide some additional background knowledge.
Some of the youngsters chosen will be contenders for FIFA's Best Young Player Award at the World Cup, won in previous tournaments by Germany duo Thomas Muller (2010) and Lukas Podolski (2006). Those born on or after 1 January 1993 are eligible for this honour.
You can nominate a player by emailing here, and please check our archive to make sure we have not already covered the player). You can also interact with the Scout via his Twitter feed, @SkySportsScout.
Next up on the Scout's radar is Iran winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh.
The Scout reports...
"A great possibility" - those were the words of Iran coach Carlos Queiroz when asked recently about the chances of Alireza Jahanbakhsh claiming a spot in his World Cup squad.
Queiroz is in agreement that the young forward is an exciting prospect as he considers his personnel for the Group F challenge against Nigeria, Argentina and Bosnia. Iran will be the top-ranked Asian nation at the finals and hopes are high that they can reach the knockout stages at the fourth time of asking.
Jahanbakhsh is a tenacious attacker who is comfortable playing anywhere across the forward line of a 4-3-3 formation, although he is most effective when cutting in off the right flank.
However, with Fulham's Ashkan Dejagah expected to fill that spot in Queiroz's starting line-up, Jahanbakhsh's best chance of a start this summer is more likely to come on the left.
Skilful with both feet and useful in the air too, the 5ft 11in wideman is ambitious yet also level-headed, and unlikely to be fazed by the World Cup atmosphere having often played in front of large crowds back home.
Born in Qazvin in northern Iran, three hours drive from the capital Tehran, Jahanbakhsh had only just turned 17 when he was named in the Iran squad for the AFC Under-19 Championship finals in China in October 2010. He was snapped up the following summer by newly-promoted Iran Pro League club Damash Gilan, where he was given ample playing time in a side that twice finished in mid-table.
Jahanbakhsh's leadership qualities soon saw him named captain of Iran Under-19s, and he weighed in with five goals in four games as they again qualified for the AFC U19 Championship finals. He was on target twice in the tournament itself, against the hosts UAE and in the quarter-final defeat to eventual winners South Korea. When he moved up an age group to the Under-20s, he boasted an impressive strike-rate of 11 goals in 17 appearances.
The winger's international exploits brought him to the attention of scouts from Dutch Eredivisie outfit NEC Nijmegen, with whom he signed a three-year deal in May 2013.
It was a tough season for NEC, who were fighting for their lives at the foot of the table ever since they lost 4-1 on the opening weekend to Groningen, a match in which Jahanbakhsh made his debut. During the regular season, he made 11 starts and 16 substitute appearances in the Dutch top-flight and experienced several ups and downs over the course of the campaign.
A case in point was the clash away to Go Ahead Eagles on 5 October. That day, Jahanbakhsh received his first senior call-up from Queiroz for Iran's Asian Cup qualifier at home to Thailand later in the month. When he came off the bench in Deventer, NEC were 3-0 down but he set up the visitors' second goal as they clawed themselves back to parity. However, disaster struck in the 89th minute when he stretched to cut out a right-wing cross and conceded a decisive own goal.
Nevertheless, the 20-year-old was able to make the right impact for his country in the weeks that followed. After making his Iran debut from the bench in a 2-1 win over Thailand, he was subbed on again for the return Group B game in Bangkok and swept home the third goal in a 3-0 victory. Queiroz elevated Jahanbakhsh to his starting line-up for the next game away to Lebanon, playing him on the right with Dejagah in the middle behind lone striker Reza Ghoochannejhad. Iran promptly recorded a 4-1 romp that sealed qualification for the 2015 Asian Cup finals in Australia.
With his confidence clearly boosted, Jahanbakhsh was prominent in the thoughts of NEC coach Anton Janssen when he returned to domestic action - and he enjoyed a memorable club outing in a 3-2 home win over AZ Alkmaar on December 1. His excellent one-two return pass down the wing played in right-back Marnick Vermijl for the opener and although AZ equalised, Jahanbakhsh restored NEC's lead when he was left unmarked on a corner and headed in from close range. Then, when Michael Higdon headed on a long ball, Jahanbakhsh latched onto it and looped a right-footed shot over AZ keeper Esteban Alvarado from the edge of the area for what proved to be the winning goal.
His performance against AZ reportedly impressed Manchester United scouts, who were monitoring on-loan Belgium U21 defender Vermijl. Another goal and an assist followed for Jahanbakhsh in a 5-2 loss at Groningen just before Christmas and despite a hamstring injury setback in January, he has been able to get several 90-minute stints under his belt for NEC in 2014, and also played a key role in their run to the Dutch Cup semi-finals. Jahanbakhsh won his fourth Iran cap as a substitute in the 2-1 friendly defeat by Guinea in March, helping Team Melli turn in an improved second-half display having trailed by two goals at the break. At the end of that month, he showed his aerial prowess again by setting up NEC's 14-goal striker Michael Higdon (formerly of Motherwell) for a goal in a 2-2 draw at Heerenveen.
On May 3, Jahanbakhsh was brought off the bench after an hour of the final-day clash away to champions Ajax and netted a brace of equalisers in a 2-2 draw - the first of which was a classy 20-yard strike. The point gained kept NEC off the bottom of the table and instead of automatic relegation, sent them into the play-offs - where they were subsequently beaten by Sparta Rotterdam and consigned to the drop anyway. NEC's demise could now increase the chances of Jahanbakhsh seeking pastures new in the summer, especially if he has a successful World Cup campaign under his belt.
The Scout says...
Those who watched Queiroz's Portugal in the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa will recall the former United coach's defensive approach (the 7-0 hammering of North Korea aside). Goals have been hard to come by for Iran of late, which is why Jahanbakhsh should be optimistic over his World Cup chances. His energetic and enthusiastic displays for club and country have been encouraging, and along with another talented youngster - Rubin Kazan's Sardar Azmoun, who has been linked with the likes of Arsenal and AC Milan - calls are growing for his inclusion in the final 23-man squad. Catching the eye of United's scouts suggests he might yet follow in the footsteps of Dejagah and Ghoochannejhad and make the move to England, particularly if he can help Iran get out of Group F.
The Scout rating...
Shooting: 6 out of 10
Passing: 6 out of 10
Tackling: 7 out of 10
Heading: 7 out of 10
Pace: 7 out of 10
Vision: 6 out of 10
Current ability: 6 out of 10
Potential ability: 8 out of 10
Overall Scout rating: 53/80
Current value: £1million
Potential value: £9million
You've read the Scout's report on Alireza Jahanbakhsh - now we want your views. Have you seen Jahanbakhsh in action? Do you agree with the Scout's assessment? How do you rate his World Cup and future prospects? Get in touch, either using the form below, email or the Scout's Twitter feed - @SkySportsScout.