By Michael Church
Nov 2 (Reuters) – Iran striker Mehdi Taremi’s four years in Portuguese football have turned unquestioned potential into one of the most potent weapons at the disposal of national team coach Carlos Queiroz.
Since featuring for Team Melli at the last World Cup — and missing a late opportunity against Portugal to take Iran into the knockout rounds for the first time — the 30-year-old from Bushehr has turned into a scoring machine.
Taremi established himself as one of the most talked about players in Iran before Russia 2018 but until then he eschewed advances to move to Europe to stay much closer to home.
In 2016 he signed a contract with Turkish side Caykur Rizespor before deciding to stay with Tehran-based Persepolis, a decision that was to cost him four months of his career in 2017 when he was banned by FIFA for breaching that agreement.
It was to prove a brief setback for Taremi, who had signed an 18-month contract with Qatar’s Al Gharafah ahead of the last World Cup but before long was on his way west, joining Rio Ave in the Portuguese league.
He made an immediate impact, scoring 18 times in 30 league games to secure a move to Porto in the close season of 2020. Taremi has not looked back since.
The goals have flowed as the striker helped his team to the Portuguese league and cup double last season, with Taremi also impressive in the Champions League.
He scored the competition’s goal of the season in 2021 with a spectacular overhead kick in a 2-1 quarter-final loss against Chelsea and his performances prompted speculation that a move to the Premier League is imminent.
The road for Iran was slightly less smooth, even if Taremi was scoring regularly under former coach Dragan Skocic.
A fall-out with the Croatian saw him dropped for World Cup qualifiers against Lebanon and Syria last year before the pair patched up their differences and Taremi returned to the squad.
The rehiring of Carlos Queiroz in September means the risk of Taremi not being selected for Qatar — fitness permitting — has disappeared such is the bond between the pair.
Taremi, whose brother Mohammad played professionally, can lead the line alone or partner Sardar Azmoun, should the Bayer Leverkusen striker shake off an injury before the World Cup.
(Reporting by Michael Church in Hong Kong; Editing by Ken Ferris)