Five ASEAN players who nearly signed for big European clubs

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For football players, the dream is easily to be able to call yourself a professional while playing the sport you love.

A handful of people among the millions of aspirants are able to fulfill that wish and among that handful, only chosen few have the chance to play in one of the big clubs in Europe.

Long regarded as the top region for football, signing for a team in Europe means that you are one of the best in the world.

That remains true in the ASEAN where stars are hopeful that one day they could sign for big clubs and play in the grandest stages.

With that in mind, here are five ASEAN players who had chances to play for big European teams but failed to push through.

TEERASIL DANGDA – THAILAND – ATLETICO MADRID

Regarded as one of the elite talents in the region, Thailand’s Teerasil Dangda once had an opportunity to play for La Liga side Atletico Madrid.

Teerasil was playing with Muangthong United in the 2012 season where he led the team to an unbeaten run in the competition. There, he was a scoring machine, breaking the previous record of 23 goals by notching 24 for the season.

Naturally, it turned heads and he was eventually invited for a trial with Atletico Madrid and over two weeks tested his talents alongside a big club.

However, the trials would not result in an offer and Teerasil would return to Muangthong in February.

It wouldn’t be the last time Teerasil and the La Liga would cross paths as he would play for Almeria in 2014 and be the first Southeast Asian player to feature in the Spanish top flight.

BAMBANG PAMUNGKAS – INDONESIA – FC INGOLSTADT 04

Another striker makes the list, this time from Indonesia as legend Bambang Pamungkas once had an opportunity to play for German club FC Ingolstadt 04.

The opportunity opened up back in 2010 when he was playing for Persija Jakarta. Bambang was already a legend at this time as he was already in his second stint with the club after a stint from 1999-2005 (with a loan move in 2000 to EHC Norad), and 2007-2012. In between, he played for Selangor FA where he scored 42 goals in 63 appearances.

Prior to Ingolstadt 04, Bambang had prior interest from Europe through English club Derby County back in 2008 but Bambang opted to stay in his home country.

At the moment, at 38 years old, he is in his third stint with Persija where he’s had 10 goals in 59 appearances since 2015.

NGHIEM XUAN TU – VIETNAM – 1. FC KAISERSLAUTERN

An attacking midfielder from Vietnam, Nghiem Xuan Tu had a chance to play in the Bundesliga for 1. FC Kaiserslautern and Fortuna Dusseldorf 1895.

This happened back in 2016 when Xnghiem Xuan Tu recently made his move from FLC Thanh Hoa to Than Quan Ninh FC when FC Kaiserslautern scout Fritz Fuchs saw the Vietnamese international play and was immediately impressed by his talents.

An article even compared Nghiem Xuan Tu to Leicester City striker Shinji Okazaki.

Unfortunately, it never came to fruition and the 30-year-old still remains with Than Quan Ninh FC.

Cover photo courtesy of SOHA

FANDI AHMAD – SINGAPORE – AFC AJAX

A Singaporean legend, Fandi Ahmad was one of the best in the continent during his best years and had the attention of Dutch heavyweights AFC Ajax.

In a different story, it was Fandi who turned down an opportunity to play for the team after a three-week trial resulted in them offering a three-year-deal.

He would eventually make a move to the Netherlands, albeit joining FC Groningen instead of AFC Ajax. During his stay with the club, he became a very popular figure when he scored 11 goals in 36 appearances.

In his long and illustrious career, Fandi would perform well for both club and country. In 332 total matches for various clubs, he scored 170. Meanwhile, he would have 55 international goals in 101 caps for Singapore.

SAFIQ RAHIM – MALAYSIA – CARDIFF CITY

Last but certainly not the least in the list is Malaysian star Safiq Rahim. After an impressive showing, Safiq had a chance to play for Welsh side Cardiff City as he was given a three-week trial.

Playing for Selangor FA from 2010 to 2012, Safiq was given a chance to play for Cardiff City as former chairman of the club Chan Tien Ghee was also Malaysian and was impressed by Safiq’s talent.

Along with Safee Sali, Safiq went through three weeks of trials from November to December of 2011 and would then return to Selangor.

Through his career, Safiq has played for big clubs in Malaysia like Johor Darul Ta’zim, Selangor and he currently plays for Melaka United.

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