Daniel Arzani was born in Iran where he spent his youth honing his skills with makeshift footballs on the streets. It was where he developed a love for football, which he took to Australia when his family moved to Sydney when he was just six.
“We didn’t have proper balls – we had these little plastic balls that were really light, so we’d buy 10 of them and cut them in half with a knife, layer them over each other then cover it with electrical tape,” as per Domain.
At 14, following a year back in Iran, the player was recruited to the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra before signing for Melbourne City at 16.
He was the youngest player at the World Cup
Until the beginning of 2018 Arzani had played 81 minutes of first team football for Melbourne City. However, his form in the second half of the season was enough to earn him a place in Australia’s squad for the 2018 World Cup.
He was the only player born in 1999 to be included in the squad of any of the 32 nations competing at the tournament. He featured in all three games at the tournament, coming off the bench in each one. His performance in a draw with Denmark gave Australia fans one of few positives from the tournament.
He also holds the feat of being the youngest player included in an Australia squad for a World Cup.
The great hope of Australia
His appearance in the country’s 2-1 defeat to France in their World Cup opener ensured that the player can now only play for Australia. In February of this year there were strong rumours that the Iranian national team were going call him up. And the player himself was unsure where his future lay.
Australia had their youth system on their side with Arzani having emerged from the FFA Centre of Excellence, and going on to play for the country at under-17, under-20 and under-23 level.
Pressure was exerted by Luke Casserly, FFA’s head of national teams.
He said: “We’ve invested a fair bit in him over the years. It would be disappointing if he was to change allegiances. But, as always, it’s the decision of the individual.”
Everyone in Australian football seemed to have their say with former goalkeeper Mark Bosnich saying Australia should have just organised a game to give him a cap.
His father said that from a young age that he wanted to wear green and gold and that was the case when he made his debut in a 4-0 friendly win over Czech Republic in June.
Now he is seen as the future of the national team. Former Rangers defender Tony Vidmar said the country don’t “have a player like him”, while the former Socceroos boss Bert van Marwijk noted he is a player “who can make a difference”.
Striker Andrew Nabbout told Four Four Two: “He’s just that kind of player that you can’t take your eye off for a second because he’ll get away and put one in the top corner or on someone’s head in the box.
“It’s good to have someone like that at 19 years old, pushing all the older boys, because you know he’ll be a rising star in the Socceroos and that’s not the last you’ll see of him.”
Labelled the next Harry Kewell the player has had a number of clubs around Europe show interest. After the World Cup he travelled to London to discuss his future.
Both Juventus and Roma showed strong interest but Manchester City won the battle with a plan in place for his progression.
Following in the footsteps of Aaron Mooy
The success of Aaron Mooy in English football raised a few eyebrows around Scottish football. He had a decent spell at St Mirren but few saw a multi-million transfer on the horizon.
His success at Melbourne City saw Manchester City use their partnership with the club to sign him and loan him to Huddersfield Town before the deal with the Terriers was made permanent.
There is more hope for Arzani, who has been sent on a long-term loan by City.
It is something which has concerned former Middlesbrough and Chelsea goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.
He said: “I wouldn’t go to Man City or Juve or a big club like that because he won’t play. Sure he might go there and get loaned out, but then you’re putting your destiny in the club’s hands”.
Skill and creativity
Brian Marwood, who is the managing director of City Football Services, overseeing the City Football Group’s wide range of clubs has said the player has an “x-factor”.
The 19-year-old is an exciting prospect who wants to dribble and take players on at pace. Vidmar stated “the amount of take-ons he had when he went past players was double the next nearest player”.
He may have a small frame but it comes with a low centre of gravity and balance which he uses to his advantage to evade and bustle his way past opponents.
He is a different kind of attacker to fellow Australian Tom Rogic. While Rogic has a laid-back approach, using his feet and strength to hold onto the ball, Arzani is more dynamic, cutting infield before shooting or searching for a pass, creating 23 chances in 16 games last season.
Room for improvement
While there were some complaints last season about his tendency to go to ground under challenges easily, Melbourne City manager Warren Joyce warned that the player has “bad habits”.
The Englishman didn’t go into specifics but noted that he needed coaches who were going to be tough on him when he does make certain mistakes.
The biggest concern surrounds his physique. He completed 90 minutes just four times with the player regularly being withdrawn before the 70th minute. The club were aware that his body was still adjusting to the demands of first-team football which suggests the player would need further physical work if he made the move to Celtic.
Joyce did have positive things to say about Arzani, “he wants to work, he wants to learn” which will be of great appeal to Brendan Rodgers.