Football: World Cup - Iranian stars aim to cash in

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IRAN'S JUBILANT players returned to training yesterday but some had more than Sunday's historic 2-1 win over the United States on their minds. Their victory has put the Iranian players firmly in the football spotlight and now they could be poised to cash in with lucrative contracts from foreign clubs.

Already the centre-forward Ali Daei has signed for the German giants Bayern Munich after his former club Arminia Bielefeld were relegated from the Bundesliga.

Khodadad Azizi also played in Germany last season with Cologne. But with his club also going down he is expected to move in time for next season. The tricky front-man has brought his German-based agent with him to France and the agent has been glued to his mobile phone for the last week.

Azizi has expressed a preference for a move to Spain, but yesterday he said he would not be announcing any deal until after Iran's involvement in the World Cup is over. "After the World Cup my situation will be clear," he said.

Right-winger Mehdi Mahdavikia, who topped an impressive performance against the US with his team's second goal, said he expects to leave his Iranian club Pirouzi after the tournament. "I think after the World Cup I will go to the German league," Mahdavikia said. He said he was in talks with a German club but had not yet signed a contract.

Goalkeeper Nima Nakisa may be coming back to France sooner than he imagined. He said on Monday that it was "80 per cent sure" he would be joining French First Division club Nantes.

Another Iranian with business to complete is national team coach Jalal Talebi. He is is working without a contract but hopes to secure his future soon. After calling the victory over the US "the biggest success of my career" he hopes to tie up a permanent deal with the Iranian federation.

"It will be discussed after the Cup is finished but I want to stay," he said. "It is my country and it is an honour to represent them in this way."