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FEATURE | An Iranian in France – Amiens place their attacking hopes on Saman Ghoddos

Amiens’ goalfest against Stade de Reims (4-1) on Saturday was loaded with talking points, most of which concern the use of VAR or lack thereof, but the Ligue 1 debut of Saman Ghoddos was particularly notable. Ghoddos was a surprise in the Picard starting XI, his signing from Östersunds for €4m having only been made official the day before. Despite partaking in a single training session with his new teammates, he was handed the keys to Amiens’ attack and marked his debut with a goal. Jordan Lefort crossed from the left and Ghoddos’ parabolic header from just inside the box made him the first ever Iranian to score in Ligue 1.

“I didn’t know anything about Ligue 1, so it was hard,” he said in English after the game, “I didn’t play well but it will get better. Every day, training and training I will improve with the team and learn how we think and play.”

Manager Christophe Pélissier’s precipitation in including the new man underlines how badly he was needed and hoped for in President Macron’s hometown. His side had yet to score in open play this season and had started in a worrisome manner. They were beaten 2-0 by a meek Lyon in their opening match, before losing 2-1 at home to Montpellier. Their troubles are however far from over, as they brace themselves for the loss of Prince-Désir Gouano, who didn’t train all week. The centre-back, who was seen as the club’s best player going into the season, is trying to force a move to Anderlecht.

But in Ghoddos, they have at last found the replacement for Gaël Kakuta at #10, their transfer priority over the summer. Last year, les Licornes had performed a coup when they obtained the loan of Kakuta from Hebei Fortune in China. The former Chelsea wonderkid played a key role, adding 6 goals and 6 assists. Replacing his creativity has been a difficult process, and although Amiens looked abroad and recruited smart (Emil Krafth from Bologna, Rafal Kurzawa from Górnik, Eddy Gnahoré from Palermo), Pélissier was still missing a player capable of carrying his attack.

For Amiens to pick up a player with a recent history so rich is remarkable. With one of the smaller budgets in Ligue 1 (36 million euros, smaller than promoted Reims), players of Ghoddos’ calibre are usually out of reach. He presents several advantages in addition to his technical skill. For one, he has played competitively through the summer in the Swedish league. He is match fit and this justified his inclusion in Saturday’s team. Further, he can play as on attacking midfielder or as a forward, which will give Pélissier options tactically.

Amiens had initially sought to sign Ghoddos much earlier, but found themselves in competition with Stade Rennais, whose financial power and competitiveness in the league would have proved no match, if they had stayed the course for a deal. Rennes themselves were then trumped by Spanish side Huesca, who claimed to have had a legal agreement with Ghoddos for his arrival. Rennes pulled out at this stage, having their sights on other players as well. Against all odds, the cards fell back into Amiens hands who have at last found the offensive signing they have sought all summer. Huesca contested the move in front of FIFA on Thursday afternoon, but the transfer was validated.

Ghoddos’ first move outside of his native Sweden marks the next step up in a rapid rise over the last two years. Bought for €75,000 by Östersunds, he won the Swedish Cup with them in 2017, their first ever major trophy. He was a hero during their Europa League run, decisive during the playoff elimination of Galatasaray and the 2-1 win away to Arsenal. He delivered both assists in that match, earning plaudits from Arsène Wenger himself: “Ghoddos is a marvelous player technically, tactically. I was impressed by him.” Ghoddos scored 41 goals in 93 matches for Graham Potter’s former side, and these stats earned him a call-up by Iran for Team Melli’s World Cup adventure in Russia, appearing as a sub in each of their three matches.

Against Reims, Ghoddos was involved in just the one goal. Amiens attacking flurry was aided by VAR, thanks to which Reims saw Romain Métanire was sent off and Pablo Chavarria’s goal ruled offside. This played into the Northerners’ hands, but they showed hints of attacking potential which will possibly be magnified with the help of Ghoddos. Senegalese international Moussa Konaté scored his second and third goals of the season and it will be interesting to see how their partnership develops, as the game finished 4-1. One thing is sure, keep your eyes peeled for the exploits of Ligue 1’s first Persian star.



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