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Iranians must overcome tough obstacles for EPL opportunities

It’s arguable whether it’s the best league in the world in terms of quality, but there’s little doubt that the English Premier League (EPL) is the most popular when it comes to TV viewers around the world.

It would add even more interest to betting on Premier League matches were there to be an Iranian player or two plying their trade there.  To date, there have only been three such players- Karim Bagheri, Andranik "Ando" Teymourian and AshkanDejagah - to have featured in the top-flight of English football since it was rebranded in 1992.

So why is it so difficult for Iranian players to get an opportunity in the EPL?   There are various factors to consider.  

On the footballing food chain, EPL clubs are at the top of the pile.  They tend to sign their overseas players from the likes of La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1, with only a handful of the very top clubs from those leagues able to compete with the spending power of their English counterparts when it comes to transfer fees and wages paid.  

Work permit regulations now dictate that a player whose national team has a FIFA ranking of between 31 and 50 (Team Melli aka Iran are currently ranked 39) has to have played in 75% of games in the two years prior to application to be granted a work permit.  That immediately limits the number of Iranian players eligible.

The restrictions for younger players are slightly less rigid, but the financial rewards of being in the EPL are such that clubs are reluctant to take chances on them.  They generally want proven quality rather than potential, although the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City have increasingly signed top young players from around the world and then immediately loaned them out to gain first-team experience.

In truth there are only relatively few Iranians currently playing at a decent standard in Europe as it is, so the fact that there are none in the EPL at present isn’t really that surprising.  The likelihood is that the next to feature will do so having first established themselves in one of these European leagues.  On that basis, the names in the frame as it stands would be AlirezaJahanbakhsh at AZ Alkmaar and the FC Rostov duo of SaeidEzatolahi and Sardar Azmoun.