One of Asia’s greatest players, Iranian star Ali Daei assured his place in football history when he became the all-time leading goalscorer in men’s international football. Born in Ardabil, he began his senior career with hometown club Esteghlal in 1988 before moving on to Taxirani and Bank Tejarat over the next few years. While with Bank Tejarat, he received international recognition for the first time in 1993 and appeared in his first major tournament at the following year’s Asian Games.
In 1994, Daei moved to join one of Iran’s biggest clubs, Persepolis, where he won his first major trophy with a league title in 1996. At that year’s Asian Cup, he scored eight goals in just six games, including four against South Korea in a 6-2 quarter final win. However, in the semi final against Saudi Arabia he missed in the penalty shoot-out as Iran were beaten and eventually finished third.
Having left Iran to play in Qatar for Al-Sadd, Daei made the move to Europe in 1997 when he joined Arminia Bielefeld in Germany. His international profile grew further when Iran qualified for the World Cup of 1998, their first appearance for twenty years. Daei’s performances earned him a move to Bayern München, where he helped the team to win the league title in 1998-99, a season in which he also led Iran to victory in the Asian Games.
Moving from Bayern to Hertha Berlin, Daei stayed in Germany until 2002 but was unable to help Iran to another World Cup appearance in that year. After a year in the United Arab Emirates with Al-Shabab, he returned to Iran for a second spell with Persepolis in 2003. During that season, he scored his 85th international goal, breaking the long-standing record of Hungarian legend Ferenc Puskas. The following year, he became the first man to score 100 goals in international football.
Having moved to Saba Battery in 2004, Daei helped the club to win the Iranian Cup in 2005 before becoming the player-manager of Saipa in 2006. His international career finally came to an end with a second appearance at the World Cup in 2006, finishing with a total of 109 international goals. His coaching career began with league title for Saipa in 2007, but a year later he was appointed coach of the national team and left Saipa following the 2007-08 season. With Iran struggling to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, Daei was sacked as national coach in March 2009.