With the foreign player rule changing from 2018, and clubs having to recruit their +1 player from the AFF rather than the broader AFC, it’s inevitable that Thai clubs will start looking to countries like Vietnam for new talent.
And it seems like Port are getting in early, with the Vietnamese media and Thailand’s GangZaBaaBall linking the club with a move for talented 22-year old Vietnam national team striker Nguyen Cong Phuong. The Hoang Anh Gia Lai forward is also apparently interesting Buriram and Chonburi, and with his impressive national team scoring stats – 26 goals in 33 appearances at U23 level – he’s one of ASEAN’s hottest young properties. He may be Chanatip-sized but he’s a fast, skillful and hard-working player who clearly knows where the goal is, and thus a big upgrade on the likes of Wuttichai & Tana.
Zico of course knows the Vietnamese game – and Cong Phuong’s current club – well, having spent 4 very successful years at Hoang Anh Gia Lai as a player and another two as coach; and Vietnam football legend and current Ho Chi Minh City FC chairman Le Cong Vinh was recently spotted at Port’s game against Chiang Rai, suggesting the Port coach is strengthening his Vietnam ties in readiness for the rule change. His experience of handling Vietnamese players, and his familiarity with the language, might just put him in the lead in the race for the young player’s signature.