The past three Iraqi Premier League seasons have seen Baghdad giants Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, Al-Zawraa and Al-Shorta each picking up the title in turn. All three were great sides in their own right, but what would a best combined XI from those teams look like? Soccer Iraq’s Yaseen Kabash gives us his opinion…
GOALKEEPERS: Fahad Talib (Al-Jawiya), Jalal Hassan (Al-Zawraa), Mohammed Hameed (Al-Shorta)
These three remain arguably Iraq’s best goalkeepers. Talib and Hameed are both great shot-stoppers but Jalal is the most reliable and well-rounded ‘keeper in the country.
OUR PICK: Jalal Hassan
RIGHT BACKS: Sameh Saeed (Al-Jawiya), Hussein Al-Jwayed (Al-Zawraa), Alaa Mhawi (Al-Shorta)
Saeed and Mhawi are both strong going forward but Hussein Al-Jwayed, the Syrian international, offered both defensive resilience and attacking threat and was one of the league’s best foreign players in recent times.
OUR PICK: Hussein Al-Jwayed
CENTRE BACKS: Samal Saeed (Al-Jawiya), Ali Hussein Rehema (Al-Zawraa), Faisal Jassim (Al-Shorta)
Despite being on his last legs, veteran Ali Hussein Rehema played a vital part in Al-Zawraa’s title win with his command and control at the back. Samal Saeed and Faisal Jassim both had impressive seasons but this one goes to the Asian Cup winner.
OUR PICK: Ali Hussein Rehema
CENTRE BACKS: Saad Natiq (Al-Jawiya), Salam Shakir (Al-Zawraa), Mustafa Nadhim (Al-Shorta)
Saad Natiq’s 2016-17 season was the best of his career and one that earned him a move abroad to Qatar’s Al-Arabi, while Salam Shakir and Mustafa Nadhim were not as integral to their teams’ defences in their respective seasons (partly owing to injury). Only one choice here!
OUR PICK: Saad Natiq
LEFT BACKS: Ali Bahjat (Al-Jawiya), Nadim Sabagh (Al-Zawraa), Dhurgham Ismail (Al-Shorta)
Dhurgham Ismail’s return to Al-Shorta last season saw him rekindle some of his pre-injury magic down the left flank, combining his defensive duties with being an important creative outlet and arguably offering more overall to his team than Bahjat and Sabagh did to theirs.
OUR PICK: Dhurgham Ismail
CENTRAL MIDFIELDERS: Zaher Midani (Al-Jawiya), Safaa Hadi (Al-Zawraa), Maarouf Youssef (Al-Shorta)
Midani and Youssef are probably the two best foreign midfielders to grace the Iraqi League. However, 2017-18 was a breakthrough campaign for Safaa Hadi and one that propelled him to becoming one of Asia’s most promising talents and moving to Europe. It’s got to be him!
OUR PICK: Safaa Hadi
CENTRAL MIDFIELDERS: Bashar Resan (Al-Jawiya), Ahmed Fadhel (Al-Zawraa), Amjad Attwan (Al-Shorta)
Attwan transformed Al-Shorta’s midfield with his work-rate and passing accuracy and Ahmed Fadhel was crucial in conducting play from the heart of Al-Zawraa’s team. Unfortunately for them, Bashar Resan was a different animal in 2016-17. It was no wonder that Iranian champions and eventual AFC Champions League finalists Persepolis came calling for him at the end of that season!
OUR PICK: Bashar Resan
LEFT MIDFIELDERS: Humam Tariq (Al-Jawiya), Hussein Ali (Al-Zawraa), Alassane Diallo (Al-Shorta)
Diallo was a constant goalscoring threat playing regularly on the left wing and Humam was, as usual, a major creative force for the Falcons with his trademark crosses and through balls. However, Hussein Ali’s 2017-18 campaign for Al-Zawraa was immense. Comfortable on either wing, he was Al-Zawraa’s second-highest scorer that season and earned a move to Qatar on the back of his performances.
OUR PICK: Hussein Ali
RIGHT MIDFIELDERS: Emad Mohsin (Al-Jawiya), Ibrahim Bayesh (Al-Zawraa), Karrar Jassim (Al-Shorta)
A battle between two youngsters and one veteran – and the veteran comes out on top here. As important as Mohsin and Bayesh were, Karrar Jassim’s impact on Al-Shorta’s attack after his January arrival cannot be underestimated. He racked up assists for fun on the right flank and proved to be one of the best Iraqi League signings of recent years.
OUR PICK: Karrar Jassim
STRIKERS: Hammadi Ahmed (Al-Jawiya), Luay Salah (Al-Zawraa), Alaa Abdul-Zahra (Al-Shorta)
Excluding penalties, Alaa netted 20 times while Hammadi bagged 15 goals. However, Hammadi’s 2016-17 campaign saw him step up at the most crucial times, scoring three last-minute winning goals in the final two weeks of the season to help secure the title. This is a close one, but Hammadi’s heroics were too memorable to be overlooked!
OUR PICK: Hammadi Ahmed
STRIKERS: Amjad Radhi (Al-Jawiya), Mohannad Abdul-Raheem (Al-Zawraa), Mohanad Ali (Al-Shorta)
With 19 goals and 10 assists, Mohanad Ali was probably Al-Shorta’s most influential player last season, earning a move to Qatari giants Al-Duhail. We have seen Al-Shorta struggle ever since Mimi left the club which just shows how important he was to their success, and as consistent as Radhi and Abdul-Raheem were, Mimi’s contribution to his team was surely the biggest.
OUR PICK: Mohanad Ali