Steve McClaren: Signing Nashat Akram Is Your Best Decision Yet
When Iraq shocked the Asian football world by beating Saudi Arabia in the 2007 Asian Cup final, I had expected many of the Iraqi football players to gravitate into the European leagues.
Players like Younis Mahmoud, Hawar Mullah Mohamed and Emad Mohamed would not look out of place in the Bundesliga or EPL.
Nashat Akram was also one of those earmarked for the big time.
However, that expectation did not materialise; most of the Asian Cup winners still ply their trade in the Middle East and Egypt. Well all that is about to change with the biggest star in Iraqi football moving to the Eredivise.
Over the past two years, Nashat has had trials in England with Sunderland and Manchester City. City's then-manager Sven Goran Eriksson was very impressed with him describing him as an elegant midfielder but could not sign him due to work permit rejection.
No such problems over in Holland and FC Twente has secured an intelligent, modern-day midfielder who combines creativity and tireless work ethic in one package. He also weighs in with his fair share of goals. He's one of those rare breed who can be a bit of everything, from tackling to goal scoring.
Nashat Akram was instrumental in Iraqi's first Asian Cup triumph in 2007. He was magnificient throughout the competition. His superb playmaking abilities meant that he had a hand in almost all of Iraq's goals in that competition. He was named Most Valuable Player in that final. Individual honours also followed him.
He was named "Best foreign player 2005-2006" while playing in Saudi Arabia Premier League. He was the Iraqi player of the year in 2006 and 2008. He has won the Iraqi, Saudi and Qatari leagues. He is also an Emir of Qatar Cup winner this year with Al Gharrafa.
And so FC Twente has an Asian star who is both a winner and a very experienced footballer able to handle pressure games. Without a doubt, Nashat Akram is a big-game player.
I do think that Holland is a great place for Asian players. It has been a favoured destination for a number of Asian footballers over the years. Singapore's Fandi Ahmad, Korea's Park Ji-Sung and Lee Young-Pyo and Japan's Shinji Ono have enjoyed significant successes and fan appreciation in the laid-back environment of Holland.
Rest assured, FC Twente fans will not be disappointed.
With the skills that Nashat possesses, he will be a success in Holland, providing him with a possible springboard to the English Premier League. Hopefully, with him leading the way, more Iraqi footballers will find opportunities in Europe. Younis Mahmoud and Emad Mohamed, two skilful and powerful strikers, must surely feel that their time will come.
Nashat could be the catalyst for Iraqi football much like Ali Daei was for Iran. The Bundesliga successes of Ali Daei paved the way for players like Mehdi Mahdavikia, Karim Bagheri and Ali Karimi. There is no doubt that Nashat has the personality and ability to repeat an "Ali Daei" phenomenon.
Good luck Nashat, make Asia proud...
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