Abu Dhabi: Iran coach Carlos Queiroz said on Friday that he was "honoured" to be courted by Colombia, who want the former Real Madrid boss to join them after the Asian Cup.
But the Portuguese, who has been Iran coach for eight rollercoaster years, insisted that he remains committed to bringing Asian football's biggest prize back to the country for the first time in more than 40 years.
"There's no doubt that Colombia expressed its interest and confidence in me," Queiroz told AFP in an interview before Iran face Oman in the last 16 at the weekend.
"It is an unbelievable national team with fantastic players and a very high FIFA ranking (12) — it's prestigious, an honour and something that makes me very proud.
"But at the moment my responsibility is with Iran," added the 65-year-old, who almost steered Iran to the knockout stages of last year's World Cup in Russia.
"After the Asian Cup, I will take into consideration for sure Colombia's invitation."
Despite Team Melli's strong World Cup showing, Iranian football authorities opted not to offer him a new four-year contract — a decision that stung the former Portugal coach.
"I was a little bit surprised, to be honest," he admitted. "These circumstances weren't created by me — it was the decision of the federation.
"Coaches have their futures in the hands of presidents," shrugged Queiroz. "They want to move in another direction and for sure I will find another solution too."
Iran are joint Asian Cup favourites with South Korea and Queiroz praised the desire and determination shown by his players despite the turmoil caused by sanctions imposed on the country.
"I try to select players who put the shirt above everything," he said.
"You can never compromise with attitude and character. Either you have loyalty, courage, attitude — or you don't. You can't buy it," added Queiroz, whose team are expected to prove too strong for Oman in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
"People are suffering from these emotional sanctions that are affecting the country and society. But when you live together with these fantastic people and the spirit they have, you fall in love."
While breaking up is never easy, Queiroz feels a special bond with the Iran players.
"I never saw players delivering so much and receiving so little," he said in a thinly veiled dig at Iranian officials.
"I love the players — they never quit, they are strong characters, they always want to improve, they fight. They are so dedicated to the country and the shirt. This is probably one of the strongest football families I ever met in my life."
Iran's failure to lift the Asian Cup since completing a hat-trick of victories in 1976 is something of a mystery.
But Queiroz's players look capable of ending that title drought after topping Group D, where victories over Yemen and Vietnam were followed by a goalless draw with bitter rivals Iraq.
"Nobody puts more pressure on us than me and our players," insisted Queiroz.
"But we won't fall into the trap of becoming tense, or lose control, because of the dreams that we have in front of us."
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Updated Date: Jan 19, 2019 12:16:19 IST