Player to Watch - Ehsan Hajsafi - The Iranian Cesc Fabregas

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Imscouting - With the Asian Cup on the horizon, it's time to shed some light on one of the continent's most exciting prospects.

Sepahan's Ehsan Hajsafi , only 20 years old, is set to become the new star for the Iran national team. The upcoming Asian Cup should unveil Hajsafi to the world as a truly unique prospect who has the potential to play in the biggest leagues of Europe.

Hajsafi has been a revelation in Iranian football over the last few seasons. A highly versatile midfield player, Hajsafi is one of the most talented players to emerge in Iran in recent decades. His potential is extremely high and the upcoming Asian Cup represents an excellent opportunity for European sides to scout this talented individual before he puts his signature on a highly-paid contract in one of the Gulf's leagues.

Background and history

Hajsafi, born on February 25, 1990 in Kashan, progressed through the ranks of Sepahan and all of Iran's youth national sides, notching dozens of appearances and goals for all his teams.

Hajsafi has been playing senior club football since 2007 with great success. Heplayed two matches for Sepahan in the 2007 FIFA Club World Cup, made eight league appearances in the 2006/7 season and has gone on to become an instrumental first-team player ever since.

The 2007/8 season was great for him, as he played 32 league matches, scoring six goals. In 2008, he made his debut for Team Melli in a friendly match against Zambia, and rewarded his coach, the famous former Iranian player Ali Daei, with two assists in that game. Despite his tender age, Hajsafi has now already amassed 29 caps for Team Melli, scoring twice.

After another successful club season in 2008/9, 2009/10 was an interesting one for Hajsafi, as he was tested as left-back for large parts of the campaign. He continued his fine form despite the change of position, and Sepahan won the league title. This season he has again been one of the best performers for his side.

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Strengths

Hajsafi is a complete player by almost every parameter required of a modern, successful footballer. His most important attribute is his football brain. Hajsafi has truly great understanding of the game, and ever since he started playing he has shown unique pose and self-confidence, and fantastic decision-making.

Due to this decision-making and ingenuity, many in Iran have been comparing Hajsafi with Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas. His intelligence gives him an edge over his opponents, as he reads the game exceptionally well and has highly intelligent movement around the pitch. His uses his exceptional footballing brain in every action, and he has great tactical awareness and positional sense. He just appears to have more time on the ball than his opponents.

Hajsafi is also a highly versatile player. He started his career as a central midfielder, where his footballing brain is best utilised, but he has also shown his ability to also play very well as a left-sided midfielder. Hajsafi is very quick, has excellent acceleration and decent pace with very good dribbling skills, so he is well suited to playing on the flank. Furthermore, for his height he has great natural speed, and possesses the required aggression and strength to get the better of taller opponents.

The diminutive midfielder has also played many times as a left-back, a position in which he has been used a lot lately for the national team. He has become a useful attack-minded defender for the national side, but he still needs to vastly improve his defensive abilities. Considering his great stamina though, the conclusion is that he can also develop in this role.

Hajsafi is also a highly technical player. He has a powerful shot with his left foot and he is a free-kick specialist who can score great goals from set pieces. Overall he has a very deft touch of the ball. He plays a lot with one touch, has excellent vision, and is a great crosser and passer of the ball.

Yet another of Hajsafi's strengths are his remarkably long throw-ins.

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Weaknesses

Hajsafi is obviously not the strongest of players, owing to his short stature. His aggression and good balance often make up for this, but against very tall central defenders he can get lost in physical terms. That is also the reason why he is less useful defensively; he finds it hard to man-mark opponents who are stronger than he is. Needless to say, due to his height he also finds it hard to compete in aerial battles.

Another weakness of Hajsafi is that he somewhat lacks the ability to control his temper. While he is a player who demands the ball a lot and plays as if he is mature beyond his years, he can still lose control and make rash challenges on opponents leading to cards. That weakness has a lot to do with his age.

Mentality

Perhaps Hajsafi's biggest flaw is related to his mentality. He started as a smart, confident young lad with quality seen only in really top players, but his attitude became problematic with time.

Hajsafi is a bit undisciplined and is actually quite arrogant. He thinks he is a mega-star and has become a cocky person. This approach is a result of him getting a star role too early in his career, and he doesn't seem to know how to handle it very well.

With his exceptional talent, it is clear that this approach he has can be changed. He needs a better, more professional atmosphere around him, and a mentor to lead and guide him. Basically, he needs to move to Europe and to mature during the coming years.

Current situation

To Iranian eyes, Hajsafi seems to have been around for a long time. It's easy to forget that he is still only 20 years old. He is at the very beginning of his career and he can develop enormously to become one of Asia's finest prospects. He is contracted to his club until June 2014, and his price could depend on his performance in the upcoming Asian Cup should a potential buyer show interest in his services after the competition. It appears the club will not let him go for less than €800k, but he is most definitely worth that investment.

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