Ali Daei (born March 21, 1969) is an Iranian striker currently playing in Perspolis FC (Pirouzi) Tehran and captain of the Iranian national team. He is most noted for being the all-time leading goal scorer in international matches.
Born in Ardabil, Iran, he played for his home team Esteghlal Ardabil when he was 19, missing out an a chance to play in the J-League due to military service. Although tactically speaking, Daei is not the greatest of all Iranian footballers, his fame is attributed mostly to his goal scoring. Due to Iran's tournament schedule, he has played very few matches for his clubs, yet he has managed to score frequently. He is one of the greatest strikers in the history of football and is ranked second in most goals in international matches. He is considered to be the finest striker in the history of the Asian game. In the 1998 World Cup Qualifying round, he was top on the charts scoring 38 goals in 56 matches. Including his famous 4 goal haul against the Korean Republic and 8 goals against Maldives Islands. His experience with world-class FC's opened the way for other Asian players such as Nakata and Mehdi Mahdavikia. Daei was named the world's top scorer in official international competitions by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS), having scored 20 goals in competitive matches for Iran in 1996.
After playing for minor league teams: Taxirani and Bank Tejarat, he joined one of the countries greatest Premier squads Persepolis (Pirouzi). As Armenia Bielefeld joined the Bundesliga they signed a contract with Daei and his teammate Karim Bagheri. Many other Persepolis players made contracts with several different foreign clubs at the same time, yet Daei proved to be a very successful franchise. Daei was hand picked for the Bayern Munich club by legendary footballer Franz Beckenbauer, president of the club, who rated him as a world-class centre-forward (although he usually plays as striker). He made a famous four million deutschemark move from Arminia Bielefeld to the four-time European Cup winners, which was a record for Asian players at the time.
Daei became the first Asian player to feature in a Champions League match. Yet with Bayern's 15 international players and the Iranian national team's poor scheduling, Daei had found very little time for playing. In Germany he was known to be a true gentleman, famous for the way he treated the fans. Daei would always sign autographs to Bayern fans and was often the centre of attention, he was featured in OPEL car commercials. Amazingly he usually did manage to score when given a chance to play. Still Ali Daei was unhappy with his position in the club and decided to make a move to Hertha BSC before the end of his three year contract after Bayern won the 1999 Bundesliga. He played in the Champions League with Hertha Berlin becoming the teams best scorer in the league with 3 goals. His famous match against Chelsea gained him a lot of recognition, yet even in Hertha he was not the talk of the town, since he was only amongst one of the squad's many successful franchises, who were to fulfill Hertha's Bundesliga and Champions League dreams.
At the same time he was very successful in international competition scoring in practically every game and making new records. He played in many World Teams in friendly continental games. Yet Daei was still unable to maintain a stable position in the squads starting line-up. In the year 2001 he was not among the top scorers in the Asian Qualifying round and he did not manage to take the team into the World Cup as captain for the first time. After receiving offers from Rapid Vienna, Glasgow Rangers, the J-League and a few English Premiership teams, he decided that he was no longer fit to play world-class football. He joined the U.A.E league at 34 years of age, signing a contract with Al-Shabab as a free agent. In 2003 Daei quit the U.A.Eteam and joined his old team in Tehran, where he is currently playing moderately well.
Today Daei owns his own football jersey manufacturing company, making jerseys for Iranian Premiership clubs, 2nd Division clubs world-wide and for the national team. He has made very significant charitable donations and has made appearances in charitable football matches world-wide (featuring in the World vs. Bosnia match with Roberto Baggio and other football legends. Just recently he appeared in a UNICEF commercial with superstar David Beckham and Madeline Albright. Today Ali Daei has joined the exclusive circle of players with a Century of Caps.
In a November 28, 2003 Asian Cup qualifier in Tehran against Lebanon, he scored his 85th international goal, elevating him past Hungarian legend Ferenc Puskas to top the all-time list of scorers in international matches (among men; he trails women's leader Mia Hamm by over 50 goals). As of May 1, 2004, his international goal count stands at 89.
Other Honours: Most Valuable Player and top scorer of the 1994 Asian World Cup preliminary finals (4 goals, Doha/Qatar); top scorer of the 1996 Asian Cup (8 goals, UAE); named the world's top scorer in official international competitions by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS), having scored 20 goals in competitive matches for Iran in 1996. Top goalscorer of the Iranian national league in 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995.
Famous Daei Matches:
Iran vs. Korea republic (In which he scored four times)
Iran vs. USA (World Cup 98 match where he played below-average)
Hertha BSC vs. Chelsea (UEFA Champions League, 2000)
Hertha BSC Berlin vs. Milan (UEFA Champions League, 2000)
Iran vs. Japan (1999)
Iran vs. Germany (1998)
Iran vs. Lebanon (2003) -- Daei passes Puskas