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Javad Nekounam
Iran captain Javad Nekounam in press conference before Nigeria match, 2014 FIFA World Cup (cropped).jpg
Nekounam in 2014
Personal information
Full name Javad Nekounam
Date of birth 7 September 1980 (1980-09-07) (age 41)
Place of birth Rey, Iran
Height 1.86 m (6 ft 1 in)
Playing position Midfielder
Club information
Current club Foolad (manager)
Youth career
Naft Tehran
Pas
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1998–2005 Pas 179 (45)
2005–2006 Al-Wahda 11 (3)
2006 Al-Sharjah 11 (5)
2006–2012 Osasuna 149 (24)
2012–2014 Esteghlal 44 (8)
2014 Al-Kuwait 11 (1)
2014–2015 Osasuna 22 (5)
2015–2016 Saipa 15 (3)
2016 Al-Arabi 11 (1)
Total 453 (95)
National team
1998–2000 Iran U20
1999–2002 Iran U23 10 (2)
2000–2015 Iran 151 (39)
Teams managed
2016 Iran (assistant)
2017–2018 Khooneh be Khooneh
2018–2019 Nassaji
2019– Foolad
  • Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

Javad Nekounam (Persian: جواد نکونام; born 7 September 1980) is an Iranian retired footballer who played as a central midfielder, and is the current manager of Foolad FC.

He spent most of his professional career with Pas and Spain's Osasuna, appearing in 197 official games and scoring 31 goals over his two spells with the latter club and also being team captain. He also competed in the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar, in 18 seasons as a senior.

Nicknamed Neku, and widely regarded as one of Asia's greatest footballers, Nekounam represented the Iran national team a record of 148 times, playing several major tournaments including two World Cups and four Asian Cups.

Playing career

Club

Early years

Nekounam was born in Rey. Having played for Pas Tehran F.C. for several years, appearing in the AFC Champions League with the team, he signed a five-month contract with Al-Wahda F.C. in the United Arab Emirates for US$1 million, in 2005.

In January 2006, Nekounam joined Al Sharjah SC, although some European clubs such as 1. FC Kaiserslautern and Tottenham Hotspur had previously shown interest in him.

Osasuna

After his performance at the 2006 World Cup Nekounam was linked to the likes of Hertha BSC of the Bundesliga and Ligue 1's Olympique Lyonnais, but he eventually joined CA Osasuna on a two-year contract, with an option to a third year and a 5 million minimum release-fee clause – he thus became the first Iranian player to be signed by a Spanish club. On 22 February 2007, he scored in the 120th minute of the match against FC Girondins de Bordeaux in the knockout stages of the UEFA Cup to help to a 1–0 home win and aggregate score, and after a particularly successful first season began to attract interest from other European sides, notably Scotland's Rangers who had a £1 million pound offer rejected.

On 14 August 2007, Nekounam suffered an anterior cruciate ligament rupture in his right knee and, after undergoing a successful surgery in Augsburg, Germany, was sidelined for eight months. His number 24 was given to new signing Jaroslav Plašil, as he recovered from his injury.

Nekounam agreed to a three-year extension on 24 November 2007 as his contract that was set to end on 30 June 2008, with a €5 million buyout clause for the first two seasons and €2.5 million for the last. In February of the following year he made his first training appearance since the injury – incidentally, a week later, Xavier Margairaz suffered a similar injury, missing an estimate period that could amount to one year – and on 27 April he made his return against Valencia CF, coming on as a substitute for Francisco Puñal in the 70th minute of a 0–3 away loss.

On 31 August 2008, Nekounam scored Osasuna's first goal of the season, from the penalty spot in a 1–1 home draw against Villarreal CF. In November/December he also netted, but the Navarrese failed to win at Málaga CF (2–4) and with Real Valladolid (3–3), also opening the score in the 3–1 away defeat to Real Madrid on 18 January 2009.

On 22 March 2009, Nekounam scored a last-minute goal for a 1–0 home victory over RCD Espanyol, and finished the season as the team's second scorer behind Walter Pandiani, scoring eight times in the league (a career-best in Spain). In summer 2009 he received offers from both Espanyol and Villarreal, with the latter in particular being ready to pay the release clause in his contract; however, the player repeatedly insisted to be "happy at the club", waiting until he "hears some better deals".

Nekounam was again a regular starter for Osasuna in the 2010–11 campaign, but also spent one month at the 2011 AFC Asian Cup with his national team. On 20 February 2011, in the second game upon his return from Qatar, he scored twice in a 4–0 home defeat of Espanyol, and eventually finished with six goals from 26 appearances in another escape from relegation.

On 21 May 2011, Nekounam renewed his contract with Osasuna for another two seasons, with the option of an annual renewal of his link. In July of the following year, amidst interest from Iranian powerhouse Esteghlal F.C. and unnamed Turkish and Qatari clubs, it was reported that he would only remain with at the El Sadar Stadium if he accepted a salary reduction – he was the highest-paid player.

Esteghlal

Javad Nekounam
Nekounam with Pas in 2005

On 21 July 2012, aged almost 32, Nekounam returned to his country and signed a two-year deal with Esteghlal for a record fee of US$1,500,000, which made him the most expensive player in the Iran Pro League history. He scored his first goal for his new club in a 2–3 loss to Foolad F.C. on 28 November, through a penalty.

On 5 May 2013, against the same opponent, he also found the net, helping his team secure their 28th league title and winning his second national championship.

Al-Kuwait

On 14 January 2014, Nekounam agreed to a four-month contract at Kuwait SC. He scored his first goal for the club on 2 February, netting the only in an AFC Champions League qualifier against Al Shorta SC.

Nekounam scored three goals in the 2014 edition of the AFC Cup, and also won the season's Kuwait Emir Cup.

Return to Osasuna

On 4 August 2014, Nekounam returned to Osasuna by signing a two-year deal. He scored in his first game upon his return, a 1–3 Segunda División loss against Deportivo Alavés on 6 September. On 2 November he added another, helping to a 3–2 home victory over Real Betis.

Saipa

Nekounam returned to Iran and its Persian Gulf Pro League on 6 July 2015, joining Saipa F.C. for one year. He scored his first competitive goal for his new team on 6 August, the second in a 2–0 win at Rah Ahan Yazdan FC.

Al-Arabi

On 21 January 2016, Nekounam moved to Qatari club Al-Arabi SC on a four-month contract with an option to extend for a further year. In his first match, at home against Qatar SC, he assisted countryman Ashkan Dejagah in an eventual 1–1 draw.

Nekounam left on 30 June 2016, and the 35-year-old announced his retirement two weeks later.

International

Iran manager Carlos Queiroz with captain, Javad Nekounam in press conference before Nigeria match, 2014 FIFA World Cup
Nekounam with Iran manager Carlos Queiroz during a press conference at the 2014 World Cup

Nekounam received his first call-up to Iran in May 2000. He became a starter for the national side during the 2002 FIFA World Cup qualifiers and, already a key midfield element, played two of the national team's matches during the 2006 World Cup in Germany, being suspended for the final group game against Angola after his second yellow card against Portugal.

Additionally, Nekounam helped Iran win the 2002 Asian Games and the 2004 West Asian Football Federation Championship, and also represented the country in the 2004, 2007 and 2011 AFC Asian Cups. He was Team Melli's leading goalscorer in its successful 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign and, on 1 June 2014, he was selected by Carlos Queiroz for the finals in Brazil, where he captained the nation in an eventual group-stage exit.

Nekounam also made the 2015 Asian Cup squad, on 30 December 2014. In March 2015, he hinted that a friendly against Sweden on the 31st – five days earlier, against Chile, he had become his country's most capped player after surpassing Ali Daei– might be his last international, but later went back on that statement only to confirm it the following day and subsequently send an emotional open letter to fans; he scored 39 goals for his country, and shortly after retiring was named Queiroz's assistant.

Coaching career

Esteghlal FC vs Foolad FC, 29 August 2019 - 72
Nekounam (left) with Andrea Stramaccioni before a match between Esteghlal and Foolad

Midway through the 2017–18 season, Nekounam became the manager of F.C. Nassaji Mazandaran. His team won 23 points from his nine games in charge, and were promoted to the Persian Gulf Pro League after a 24-year absence.

Career statistics

Club

Club performance League Cup Continental Total
Season Club League Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Iran League Hazfi Cup Asia Total
1998–99 Pas Azadegan League 22 2 22 2
1999–00 24 5 24 5
2000–01 21 5 21 5
2001–02 Iran Pro League 25 4 25 4
2002–03 25 7 25 7
2003–04 25 10 25 10
2004–05 25 9 8 4 33 13
2005–06 12 3 12 3
United Arab Emirates League President's Cup Asia Total
2005–06 Al-Wahda UAE Football League 11 3 0 0 11 3
Al-Sharjah 11 5 3 3 14 8
Spain League Copa del Rey Europe Total
2006–07 Osasuna La Liga 24 2 3 0 12 1 39 3
2007–08 2 0 0 0 2 0
2008–09 35 8 2 0 37 8
2009–10 31 3 2 0 33 3
2010–11 26 6 2 0 28 6
2011–12 31 5 5 1 36 6
Iran League Hazfi Cup Asia Total
2012–13 Esteghlal Persian Gulf Cup 27 5 4 1 8 3 39 9
2013–14 17 3 1 0 3 0 21 3
Kuwait League Emir Cup Asia Total
2013–14 Al-Kuwait Kuwaiti Premier League 11 1 2 1 6 3 19 5
Spain League Copa del Rey Europe Total
2014–15 Osasuna Segunda División 22 5 1 0 23 5
Iran League Hazfi Cup Asia Total
2015–16 Saipa Persian Gulf Pro League 15 3 3 0 18 3
Qatar League Emir Cup Asia Total
2015–16 Al-Arabi Qatar Stars League 11 1 1 0 12 1
Total Iran 238 56 8 1 19 7 265 64
United Arab Emirates 22 8 3 3 25 11
Spain 171 29 15 1 11 1 198 31
Kuwait 11 1 2 1 6 3 19 5
Qatar 11 1 1 0 12 1
Career total 453 95 29 6 36 11 519 112

International

Iran vs. Montenegro 2014-05-26 (038)
Nekounam before a friendly with Montenegro in 2014
Iran
Year Apps Goals
2000 7 0
2001 11 0
2002 9 0
2003 11 1
2004 18 7
2005 11 4
2006 11 2
2007 8 4
2008 8 4
2009 8 2
2010 6 1
2011 10 5
2012 9 1
2013 8 6
2014 9 0
2015 7 2
Total 151 39

International goals

Score and Result lists Iran's goal tally first
No. Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition Ref.
1. 1 February 2003 Hong Kong Stadium, Hong Kong, China  Denmark
1–0
1–0
2003 Carlsberg Cup [1]
2. 17 June 2004 Azadi, Tehran, Iran  Lebanon
3–0
4–0
2004 WAFF Championship [2]
3. 23 June 2004 Azadi, Tehran, Iran  Iraq
1–0
2–1
2004 WAFF Championship [3]
4. 25 June 2004 Azadi, Tehran, Iran  Syria
4–1
4–1
2004 WAFF Championship [4]
5. 20 July 2004 Olympic Sports Center, Chongqing, China  Thailand
2–0
3–0
2004 AFC Asian Cup [5]
6. 6 August 2004 Workers Stadium, Beijing, China  Bahrain
1–0
4–2
2004 AFC Asian Cup [6]
7. 17 November 2004 Azadi, Tehran, Iran  Laos
5–0
7–0 2006 World Cup qualification [7]
8.
7–0
9. 30 March 2005 Kim Il-sung, Pyongyang, North Korea  Korea DPR
2–0
2–0
2006 World Cup qualification [8]
10. 29 May 2005 Azadi, Tehran, Iran  Azerbaijan
2–0
2–1
Friendly [9]
11. 24 August 2005 Azadi, Tehran, Iran  Libya
2–0
4–0 Friendly [10]
12.
4–0
13. 16 August 2006 Azadi, Tehran, Iran  Syria
1–0
1–1
2007 Asian Cup qualification [11]
14. 6 September 2006 Abbasiyyin, Damascus, Syria  Syria
2–0
2–0
2007 Asian Cup qualification [12]
15. 2 July 2007 Azadi, Tehran, Iran  Jamaica
1–0
8–1 Friendly [13]
16.
3–0
17. 15 July 2007 National Stadium, Bukit Jalil, Malaysia  China PR
2–2
2–2
2007 AFC Asian Cup [14]
18. 18 July 2007 National Stadium, Bukit Jalal, Malaysia  Malaysia
1–0
2–0
2007 AFC Asian Cup [15]
19. 25 May 2008 Azadi, Tehran, Iran  Zambia
1–0
3–2
Friendly [16]
20. 22 June 2008 Azadi, Tehran, Iran  Kuwait
1–0
2–0
2010 World Cup qualification [17]
21. 6 September 2008 King Fahd International, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia  Saudi Arabia
1–1
1–1
2010 World Cup qualification [18]
22. 15 October 2008 Azadi, Tehran, Iran  Korea DPR
2–0
2–1
2010 World Cup qualification [19]
23. 11 February 2009 Azadi, Tehran, Iran  Korea Republic
1–0
1–1
2010 World Cup qualification [20]
24. 14 November 2009 Azadi, Tehran, Iran  Jordan
1–0
1–0
2011 Asian Cup qualification [21]
25. 3 March 2010 Azadi, Tehran, Iran  Thailand
1–0
1–0
2011 Asian Cup qualification [22]
26. 2 January 2011 Jassim Bin Hamad, Doha, Qatar  Angola
1–0
1–0
Friendly [23]
27. 2 September 2011 Azadi, Tehran, Iran  Indonesia
1–0
3–0 2014 World Cup qualification [24]
28.
2–0
29. 5 October 2011 Azadi, Tehran, Iran  [[Palestinian National Authority {{{altlink}}}|Palestinian National Authority]]
3–0
7–0
Friendly [25]
30. 15 November 2011 Gelora Bung Karno, Jakarta, Indonesia  Indonesia
4–1
4–1
2014 World Cup qualification [26]
31. 16 October 2012 Azadi, Tehran, Iran  Korea Republic
1–0
1–0
2014 World Cup qualification [27]
32. 6 February 2013 Azadi, Tehran, Iran  Lebanon
2–0
5–0 2015 Asian Cup qualification [28]
33.
3–0
34.
5–0
35. 11 June 2013 Azadi, Tehran, Iran  Lebanon
2–0
4–0 2014 World Cup qualification [29]
36.
4–0
37. 19 November 2013 Camille Chamoun, Beirut, Lebanon  Lebanon
3–0
4–1
2015 Asian Cup qualification [30]
38. 26 March 2015 NV Arena, Sankt Pölten, Austria  Chile
1–0
2–0
Friendly [31]
39. 31 March 2015 Friends Arena, Solna, Sweden  Sweden
1–2
1–3
Friendly [32]

Managerial statistics

Team From To Record
G W D L GF GA GD Win %
Khooneh be Khooneh 1 August 2017 10 January 2018 &&&&&&&&&&&&&022.&&&&&022 &&&&&&&&&&&&&012.&&&&&012 &&&&&&&&&&&&&&08.&&&&&08 &&&&&&&&&&&&&&02.&&&&&02 &&&&&&&&&&&&&032.&&&&&032 &&&&&&&&&&&&&014.&&&&&014 +18 &&&&&&&&&&&&&054.55000054.55
Nassaji Mazandaran 1 March 2018 1 January 2019 &&&&&&&&&&&&&029.&&&&&029 &&&&&&&&&&&&&012.&&&&&012 &&&&&&&&&&&&&011.&&&&&011 &&&&&&&&&&&&&&06.&&&&&06 &&&&&&&&&&&&&047.&&&&&047 &&&&&&&&&&&&&023.&&&&&023 +24 &&&&&&&&&&&&&041.38000041.38
Foolad 1 June 2019 Present &&&&&&&&&&&&&058.&&&&&058 &&&&&&&&&&&&&024.&&&&&024 &&&&&&&&&&&&&021.&&&&&021 &&&&&&&&&&&&&013.&&&&&013 &&&&&&&&&&&&&059.&&&&&059 &&&&&&&&&&&&&042.&&&&&042 +17 &&&&&&&&&&&&&041.38000041.38
Total &&&&&&&&&&&&0109.&&&&&0109 &&&&&&&&&&&&&048.&&&&&048 &&&&&&&&&&&&&040.&&&&&040 &&&&&&&&&&&&&021.&&&&&021 &&&&&&&&&&&&0138.&&&&&0138 &&&&&&&&&&&&&079.&&&&&079 +59 &&&&&&&&&&&&&044.&4000044.04

Honours

Javad Nekounam celebrating IPL title with Esteghlal
Nekounam celebrating Esteghlal's 2012–13 league title

Player

Club

Pas

Esteghlal

Al-Kuwait

  • Kuwait Emir Cup: 2013–14

International

Iran

  • AFC – OFC Challenge Cup: 2003
  • West Asian Football Federation Championship: 2004; third place 2002
  • Asian Cup third place: 2004

Individual

  • Iran football award winners: Player of the Year
  • AFC Champions League Dream Team: 2013
  • Asian Footballer of the Year nominee: 2013
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