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Talent Radar

The 10 Young Stars of 2015: Dhurgham Ismail (Asia)

Under our Talent Radar banner, we constantly strive to document and highlight the progress of the younger stars of the beautiful game, before they progress into household names. Our latest initiative within the burgeoning Talent Radar section is the introduction of #The10 feature.

This annual feature champions the combination of youth & diversity, as we look to reward 10 of the best young individuals across 10 primary categories. This second piece looks at the stand-out young star from the developing footballing hot-bed of Asia.

For all queries regarding this feature, eligibility and selection process, read this piece.


Dhurgham Ismail is an Iraqi footballer, who can serve as a midfielder, and a left back, playing generally in the wide areas of the field. The player was initially a youth in the city of Al Sadr, for his local team Naft Maysan. At the tender age of 16, he made the move to Baghdad, where he would be exposed to better opportunities, and was eventually signed up by a club he would shape his career at- Al Shurta. Making his debut as early as 2010, as a 17 year old, Dhurgham was almost an instant hit. Shurta had sold their then first choice left back, and Dhurgham made an instant impact, cementing his place in the team with some very solid performances.

Asia Dhurgham Ismail 2016

Eventually, some key performances, including an important goal against Samarra in the run in helped his team avoid relegation by the skin of their teeth. He reached his peak in the 2014-15 season though, when he finished as the second highest goal scorer for Al Shurta, and was excellent in the AFC Asian Cup for Iraq, earning a spot at left back in the Team of the Tournament. He had multiple offers to move in the summer, with clubs from abroad vying for his signature. Eventually, he chose to sign for Caykur Rizespor in Turkey in August 2015.


As highlighted above, 2014-15 was a great season for Dhurgham. In previous seasons, he’d been used in a more withdrawn role, and this really didn’t let him unleash his attacking talents. But his final season at the club saw him play higher up the pitch as a winger, and it allowed him to showcase his attacking potential. He ended up with 8 goals in the league, a fair tally for a winger. He also notched up 1 goal and 4 assists in his 4 appearances in the continental competition, quite an impressive feat. While his side finished just 3rd in the league, and were knocked out in the pre-quarter finals of the AFC Cup, it was personally a good season for Dhurgham, as he also captained Al Shurta for the first time, against his old club Maysan.

Internationally too, he had a very good season, with the Iraq national team. As such, he’s represented them at nearly every possible level, and made his debut in 2013. His real star turn so far came in the AFC Asian Cup last season though, where he was their best player of the tournament. Playing from a left back position, he displayed his strong defensive capabilities, as well as his exciting attacking prowess. He was named man of the match for his incredible performance in the madcap quarter final against Iran, which finished 3-3, and was won by Iraq after a penalty shootout. Dhurgham set up a goal, and scored one in regulation time, before also converting his kick to take them into the next round.


Dhurgham Ismail is a wide man who can help out with his solid defending, as well as some exciting attacking movement. Having started his career as a left back, he’s moved further up the field to become more of a left winger now. He played that position almost all through the 2014-15 season at Al Shurta, and now regularly plays there for his new club, Caykur Rizespor as well. He still occasionally alternates as a left back, but it seems that he’s at his best as a winger. From here too, his strength seems to lie in his ability to swing in an accurate and powerful cross for his strikers to get onto.

Ever since the beginning of his career with Al Shurta, he’s been quite adept with this, and it has always held him in good stead. His pace and work rate make him a useful option out wide, but what makes him a surefire attacking talent is his excellent shooting ability. He often rifles long range shots into the back of the net, and was also the set piece taker for Al Shurta during his time there. In many ways, his evolution to an attacking player on the left hand side has been similar to that of Gareth Bale, who saw the same transformation happen at Tottenham.


Dhurgham has just signed for Rizespor this summer, and as such, moving anywhere shouldn’t be a part of his short term plans. He was of course, linked strongly with Liverpool near the end of last season, following his performances at club and international level, but a more realistic goal for him now would be to establish himself in the Rizespor side. For all his talents, he hasn’t really broken into that team. Of late especially, he’s been mostly a substitute, with his manager choosing to try and use him as an impact player from the bench.


Three players were considered when a final shortlist was made for an Asian representative in this feature. While Dhurgham Ismail eventually got the nod, young Iranian striker Sardar Azmoun also made a decent case for himself, having already impressed us in previous Talent Radar features. The 20-year-old has assumed an important role for both club and country as he continues to evolve as a footballer.

Ismail’s other challenger was in the form of Mahmoud Dahoud. The 19-year-old midfielder is proving to be a revelation this year but the primary reason for his exclusion is on a technicality. The Gladbach man is eligible for middle-eastern country, Syria, but has thus far represented Germany at youth level.


Hassanin Mubarak of Middle Eastern football website,, told Outside of the Boot this about the Iraqi.

“Dhargham Ismail became the third left back from Iraq to play in the Turkish Süper Lig and was a natural replacement for the outgoing Iraqi Ali Adnan after his sale to Serie A side Udinese in the summer. His debut for Çaykur Rizespor was delayed after Al-Shurta were late in sending the player’s International Transfer Card (ITC), with the overlapping full back missing the opening four games of the Turkish league campaign.

The delay came after his ITC was reportedly released from his previous employers Al-Shurta only after the player paid a £50,000 US dollar bribe to his club president Riyadh Abdul-Abbas – who was involved in an apparent assassination attempt last week in the Iraqi capital. Dhargham will be happy to leave behind the troubles at his former club where he was one of the club’s mainstays last season, deployed both at left back and on the left side of midfield.

His current coach Hikmet Karaman sees his future in the same position with his appearances this season being mainly as a left sided midfielder. Yet to break into the fold at Rizespor having started only three of the eight Süper Lig appearances this season and seemingly behind the pecking order at the Yeni Rize Şehir Stadium with his coach Karaman preferring the Eren Albayrak, Ahmet İlhan Özek and Murat Duruer on the left, has left the Iraqi full back on the bench waiting for his chance to impress.”

This is how The 10 Young Stars of 2015 feature currently looks, as we reveal each individual, piece by piece. Next up is the European representative.

Read about all the players feature in #The10, right here.

The 10 Part Two

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