As the 2016/17 Persian Gulf Pro League approaches us, we present a team to team guide of all 16 clubs participating in the upcoming campaign. The first matchday kicked off on July the 25th, as fans anticipate what could turn out to be yet another exciting season of the Iranian top division.
Manager: Alireza Mansourian
2015/16 position: 3rd
2016/17 predicted position: 2nd
Key signing: The signing of creative midfielder, Bakhtiar Rahmani, will surely give the Blues more creativity further up the pitch as their centre of midfield was lacking a advanced play-maker last season.
Key Player: Omid Ebrahimi was voted the best midfielder of 2015/16 season, so it’s only natural to highlight his importance for team once again as the central midfielder finished as the club’s top goalscorer last season.
Summary: After a disappointing end to last season, the club took the decision to change the manager and backroom staff and bring in no less than 12 new players including some big names such as Bakhtiar Rahmani and Kaveh Rezaei. The fans will definitely expect them to win the league as this season promises to be more exciting than ever.
Manager: Mansour Pourmousavi
2015/16 position: Champions
2016/17 Predicted Position: 9th
Key Signing: Skilful winger, Mehdi Momeni, left the club last summer but endured a difficult campaign at Naft Tehran and Esteghlal Tehran, but Esteghlal Khuzestan have brought him back to add more goalscoring threat further up the pitch.
Key Player: captain and centre back, Mohammad Tayebi, was a key figure in the club’s success last season and the new manager will look to him to lead as example with the club looking to defend their title and make some noise in the AFC Asian Champions League.
Summary: After their incredible success last season, Esteghlal Khuzestan suffered a torrid summer as they lost their talented manager and many of their star players. Mansour Pourmousavi has been promoted from assistant manager to head coach as the club look to make a respectable challenge at defending their title and appear in their first ever Champions League campaign.
Manager: Naim Sadaavi
2015/16 position: 12th
2016/17 predicted position: 13th
Key Signing: with the departure of Leo Mesaric and Mehdi Badrloo, the signing of powerful centre back, Abdollah Karami, can prove to be pivotal for Foolad’s hopes of a successful season. The central defender was part of the Foolad side that won the 20114/15 league title.
Key Player: Box to Box Cameroonian midfielder, Mathias Chago, is proving to be one of the most influential midfielders in the league and the club did a great job at retaining him for yet another season.
Summary: After a disappointing two years, Croatian manager Dragan Skocic, left the club in the summer as former player, Naeim Saadavi has been given the role to take care of first-team affairs. The club have failed to add any real quality to their team, and on paper they seem to be behind other clubs in terms of quality.
Manager: Farhad Kazemi
2015/16 position: 13th
2016/17 predicted position: 10th
Key signing: FC Mashhad have had a major clear-out this summer with 18 new players coming into the club. Ayoub Kalantari could prove to be a huge signing. The 25 year old offers a great passing range and great positioning in central midfield, with his manager will surely build the team around his abilities.
Key Player: Hamid Reza AliAsgari’s goal on the final day of the season managed to keep the team in the league for one more season. His experience and abilities down the right side of the team will be very important. He offers a lot of versatility on the wings as his experience 2could also prove to be key for his side.
Summary: Farhad Kazemi is proving to be a great manager at keeping teams in the league, as he managed to keep FC Mashhad in the league on the final day and on goal difference. This summer he has been very busy and his signing look to be adding more quality to the team. His experience and his players’ abilities could provide a great combination and they could enjoy a mid-table position this season.
Manager: Faraz Kamalvand
2015/16 position: 9th
2016/17 predicted position: 6th
Key Signing: Gostaresh’s owners have invested heavily into the team this summer, and the signature of Mohammad Reza Khalatbari, made some heads turn in the Iranian football community. The experienced silky winger could provide a lot of attacking threat to a team that already boasted a powerful forward line.
Key Player: Dariush Sojaeian – the 23 year old left footed midfielder performed fantastically well last season as bigger clubs took attention and showed huge interests in signing him. His stellar performances earned him a few international caps but the club did really well in retaining his services for the upcoming campaign.
Summary: Gostaresh had a solid season in the last campaign, they’ve had a busy summer and made some big name signings so the board will expect Kamalvand to do slightly better this season and finish in the top 6. Their pre-season was also very successful with a stand-out 3-0 win over Turkish giants Fenerbahce.
Manager: Rasoul Khatibi
2015/16 position: 2nd (Azadegan League)
2016/17 predicted position: 11th
Key signing: Payam Sadeghian – the 24 year old is a hugely talented midfielder but is usually surrounded with controversy. His return to his hometown of Tabriz with Mashin Sazi, could bring him back to his best as Mashin Sazi will bid to survive comfortably.
Key Player: Andranik Teymourian – the Iran national team captain, is an extremely important signing for the newly promoted team. The central midfielder is hugely experienced and will bring many qualities on and off the pitch to this team.
Summary: Mashin Sazi had a successful transfer window this summer and Rasoul Khatibi look to have built a solid balanced side. This is the first time that the city of Tabriz has 3 teams in the top division, and Mashin Sazi wouldn’t want that to change at the first time of asking. A mix of experienced and young players will give Mashin Sazi a good platform to have a solid season and survive comfortably.
Manager: Ali Daei
2015/16 position: 5th
2016/17 predicted position: 8th
Key Signing: Mohammad Ghazi – the experienced striker is a favourite of Ali Daei as he has brought the 31 year old to Naft from Saba Qom. His experience and style of play will add something different to Naft.
Key Player: Iman Mobali – Naft’s board worked day and night to make sure Mobali remained at the club following the departures of the team’s key players and the club’s financial troubles. Daei will be pleased with his decision to remain at the club as he will definitely be the engine in the team with his assists once more.
Summary: Naft Tehran suffered hugely this summer. As if the loss of their manager Alireza Mansourian wasn’t enough, star players such as Alireza Beiranvand, Jalal Hosseini and Vahid Amiri have all left the club. There was even rumours of the possibility of the team being disbanded but with new financial support and new investment, the club recruited Ali Daei as manager and some new players. Daei’s ability to work immensely with young players and Naft’s reputation at producing youngsters will provide a great combination and Naft will finish the season in mid-table regardless of their financial troubles.
Manager: Mohammad Reza Mohajeri
2015/16 position: 10th
2016/17 predicted position: 16
Key Signing: Shahab Gordan – Padideh had previously struggled for a good experienced goalkeeper, but Gordan’s signing will surely sort the problems out in goal. The 32 year old has a vast experience in the Persian Gulf Pro League and if he cuts out his occasional error, he’ll be a massive help to Padideh.
Key Player: Hossein Moradmand – Moradmand is a young powerful centre back who has been likened to former Team Melli and Sepahan defender, Hadi Aghili. He rarely makes individual mistakes and this season can be very important for him in getting a move to a much bigger club and even making a case for a potential international cap.
Summary: Padideh hasn’t had the strongest transfer window, and it may be difficult for them to continue the pattern of the last few seasons and finish mid-table. There’s no strong relegation candidate so Padideh may be one of many clubs fighting for survival come March and April.
Manager: Majid Jalali
2015/16 position: 1st (Azadegan League)
2016/17 predicted position: 12th
Summary: Peykan invested heavily in their team for the upcoming season. The appointment of experienced manager, Majid Jalali, may be their biggest move in the summer. They have a lot of quality on paper and it’s difficult to see them get relegated, although stranger things have happened.
Summary: Persepolis are undoubtedly the favourites for this league title. The Reds already had a very strong team but the signature of the likes of Beiranvand, Jalal Hosseini (Centre back) and Vahid Amiri (winger) will give them more solidity in the back and more goals up the pitch. It’ll be difficult to see anyone finish above them.
Summary: Saba Qom quite possibly had the worst summer out of all PGPL teams. Following financial troubles, manager Ali Daei left the club and they lost as much as 11 key first-team players. Their new signings and the new manager don’t seem to be up to the massive task at hand and they may be facing trouble.
Summary: A combination between good young team and a manager who is known for working with youngsters, gives Saipa a great chance for success this season. They’ve been trying to qualify for continental football for a few seasons but with Faraki’s arrival at the helm, they have a fantastic chance at achieving their ambitions.
Summary: Sanat Naft is one of the oldest and most popular teams in Iran. Their promotion made many football fans pleased as they will add more colour and flair to the top division. They’ve added a few quality players to their team but they’ll still be around the relegation zone come the final weeks of the season.
Summary: following last season’s terrible campaign, Sepahan had a major clear-out in the summer. A new manager at the helm and many new players, mostly young and relatively unknown, has given Sepahan a new look. They’ll be hoping for ACL qualification but they’ll face a lot of competition.
Summary: Tractor Sazi performed relatively well during the summer, with some interesting additions. The arrival of Edinho, Karrar Jassim, Mohammad Nouri and Hadi Mohammadi will give a new look to Tractor Sazi. They have the ACL to look forward to but Ghalenoei will be aiming for the club’s first ever league title.