Iran World Cup star Sardar Azmoun has announced his retirement from international football aged just 23, citing his mother has become seriously ill because of insults he has received as the reason to quit.
The striker – nicknamed the ‘Iranian Messi’ – scored 23 goals in 33 games for his country before the start of the 2018 World Cup.
He did not score in Russia for Carlos Quieroz’s side who narrowly missed out on the last 16 after finishing third in Group B behind Spain and Portugal.
Azmoun scored 11 goals in 14 games in qualifying as Iran beat Morocco, lost to Spain and drew with Portugal.
And although he described his decision to stop playing for his homeland as “painful”, the Rubin Kazan player insisted it was the right decision.
Azmoun said: “My mother had overcome a serious illness and I was happy.
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“Unfortunately because of the unkindness of some people, and the insults that me and my team-mates in no way deserved, her illness has become severe.
“This has put me in a difficult position where I must pick one or the other – and as a result I pick my mother.”
Azmoun made his debut for Iran at the age of 19.
He is fifth on his country’s list of all-time top scorers and was compared to national hero Ali Daei, the record international goalscorer of all-time with 109 goals in 149 appearances.
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