The boy Zayed says goodbye Iran and maybe hello Dubai
“Actually I spoke to two clubs over there. One was effectively the government team and the other was like the people’s team. I spoke to the government team’s people first and I couldn’t believe what they were offering me for six months.
“I would have signed there and then but they were saying they’d put me up in a hotel and I sort of wanted to stay in this compound for expats because I reckoned there’d be people to talk to. They said they weren’t sure whether there were any places but they’d check and come back to me on it.
“That night I was supposed to meet with the people’s team people and just out of politeness I decided I’d go along, even though I was going to sign for the other lot.
“But then they offered a better deal . . . a much better deal . . . and they said I could live anywhere I liked.
“The president said if they couldn’t get me into the compound I could live in his villa; it was unbelievable stuff so I signed for them.
“Then two days later they call to say there’s a problem. It turned out one of the Gadafys was over the other club and the association, or whatever, so suddenly, there’s this rule that a Libyan international under 30 who has played abroad can’t sign for a club in Libya. It was complete nonsense but there was nothing anyone could do.”
Iran started badly, too, with Zayed not appreciating that a club president might sign a player without communicating the news to an unhappy manager.
“I showed up for my first day of training and the manager came over and asked who I was.
“I said I was the player who had just signed and, to rub salt in the wounds, he asked what position I played.
“I was standing there thinking: ‘Oh my God, this can’t be happening.’ But my agent was there too and he has this thing on his iPhone, a video about eight minutes long of me scoring goals for Drogheda United, so he started showing the manager, but he didn’t really look interested at all and after about a minute and a half he just gave up, walked off and said he’d have a look at me in training.
“The coach then carried on as if he wasn’t there, until, he says, “the president basically said to him: ‘Look, I’ve signed this guy and I want you to give him a chance’.”
Luckily for Zayed it was a couple of weeks before the big Tehran derby and, after that subsequent hat-trick, things began to change pretty quickly.
“There was something like 80,000 people there, and celebrating the goal was fantastic. You’re not going to have a feeling like that anywhere else in football unless you’re playing for Barcelona or someone like that.