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 By Paul Murphy

Former Thailand boss Winfried Schafer takes over at Esteghlal FC in Iran

Former Thailand and Cameroon head coach Winfried Schafer has been appointed as the new manager of Iranian giants Esteghlal FC.

The 67-year-old German joins the two-time AFC Champions League (ACL) winners following a year out of the game since parting company with the Jamaican national team 12 months ago.

His move back into club management comes just a couple of weeks after ex-Thailand national coach Kiatisuk Senamuang parted ways with Thai side Port FC

Schafer succeeds former Balestier Central and Geylang United midfielder Alireza Mansourian after a difficult start to the season, which sees the club in 11th place in the Persian Gulf Pro League.

The eight-time national champions have failed to lift the domestic title since 2013, and the last time they made an impression in the ACL was the same season, as they reached the semi-final before being knocked out by FC Seoul. This year, they were thrashed 6-2 on aggregate by the U.A.E's Al-Ain in the Round of 16.

Esteghlal are in 11th spot in the Persian Gulf Pro League, eight games into the season. Following last season's second-placed finish, Schafer will be tasked with taking his new side back up the table and into more familiar territory.

Winfried Schafer, left, coached Cameroon at the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan.

Schafer had a mixed spell as boss of Thailand between 2011 and 2013. He blooded some promising youngsters, including star playmaker Chanathip Songkrasin, who is now impressing Japanese fans with his performances for Consadole Sapporo in the J-League.

But he failed to take Thailand back to the top of Southeast Asian football, losing to Singapore in the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup final. The end came during the disastrous campaign to qualify for the 2015 AFC Asian Cup, which ultimately saw the War Elephants lose six out of six.

Schafer is perhaps best known for taking Cameroon to the 2002 World Cup finals, and winning the 2002 African Cup of Nations with the same country.

He also enjoyed earlier success with Karlsuher in Germany and, following his time with Cameroon, at Al-Ahli and Al-Ain in the U.A.E.

Schafer had been linked with a return to the Thailand hot seat following the departure of Kiatisuk Senamuang in April. He was also thought to be a contender for the Vietnam vacancy before Park Hang-Seo was appointed last week.

The German now has a chance to prove that his best days are not behind him as he takes the reigns at one of the biggest clubs in West Asia.

Bangkok-based Paul Murphy has lived in Asia for a decade, writing for ESPN FC since 2014. He is a former Daily Express sub-editor. @PaulMurphyBKK

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