Sardar Azmoun retires from playing for Iran at 23

Ricardo Moraes  Reuters

Iranian striker Sardar Azmoun has announced his retirement from global football aged just 23, saying criticism from fans of his performance at the World Cup had harmed his mother's health.

Iran's Sardar Azmoun reacts after World Cup match against Morocco on June 15 2018 in Saint Petersburg.

The 23-year-old, who now plays for Russian club Rubin Kazan, announced his decision through a social media post.

In a lengthy Instagram post, Azmoun wrote: "It was a great honour for me to play in my national team, and I am proud of myself till the end of my life".

"Unfortunately, despite my interest and my heart's desire, I have made a decision to say goodbye to my country's national team". A win would have given them first place in the group.

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Defeat in the following game, even at the hands of one of the tournament favourites, drew an avalanche of calls on social media for Azmoun to be benched for the final group game against Portugal. Azmoun also mentioned the illness of his mother, which according to him worsened due to the public criticism.

"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".

If Brendan Rodgers' side do remain keen on signing Azmoun though, his decision to step down from his worldwide team could benefit them.

He says this put him in a hard position between global football and his mother.

The World Cup returns on Saturday with the Round of 16.

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