South Africa international playmaker Ayanda Patosi is unlikely to return to Esteghlal despite an impressive six-month loan spell with the Asian giants.
Patosi, 26, left Cape Town City for the Persian Gulf Pro League on transfer deadline day for a temporary stint which saw him become a clear fan favourite with standout displays in domestic competitions and the Asian Champions League.
However, with his loan officially coming to an end on June 30, it's unlikely that he is to return to Iran despite the eight-time league champions expressing interest in making his stay permanent.
The club's Deputy President Ali Khatir confirmed to Mehr News, that the Citizens inserted a $300 000 (R4.4m) clause in his contract that could make him a Esteghlal player - but in their current financial state, the move isn't viable.
Meanwhile, Qatar newspaper Al-Sharq reported that several club's in Belgium have made contact with his representatives over a potential return to Western Europe.
Despite the interest, it's been reported that United Arab Emirates giants Al Ain are now the favourites to land his signature.
The club, which is one of the most successful side's in Asian football recently hired Croatian manager Ivan Leko, who is represented by the same agency as the former Lokeren midfielder.
A source close to the club revealed to KickOff, that they were impressed with his performances in the Champions League this season and contacted his representatives over a potential move two months ago.
And with Esteghlal seemingly priced out of the deal, the 13-time UAE Pro League champions are clear favourites to win the race for his signature.
Patosi scored nine goals and registered nine assists in 37 games last season for City and The Pride of Asia respectively.