Midfield General Mediocrity: Port’s Foreign Midfielders Since 2012

 

Wikipedia, Transfermarkt, Soccerway, Facebook, Instagram… I shudder to think just how much time I’ve spent on some of these sites while compiling the second in my series of looks back at Port’s foreign players since 2012.

My look at former Port strikers featured rather more of the Thierry Fidgeu than the Leandro; the ridiculous far outweighing the sublime in Port’s perennial problem position. Port’s former midfielders aren’t nearly as bad, although there are some comically poor players to go along with the cult-hero legends. Walking contradiction and certified Spanish omelette Gorka is the perfect example. Occasionally woeful, rarely brilliant, mostly mediocre. Here are Port’s foreign midfielders since 2012.

 


 

Chilean-Palestinian attacking midfielder Matias Jadue was an utterly ridiculous addition to Port’s 2017 squad, which at the time already had more foreigners than could be registered to play in T1. Surprise surprise, Jadue failed to register a single competitive minute in a Port shirt, although he came close when he was named in the starting XI for a cup game against Royal Thai Fleet, before he got himself injured in the warm-up. He had previously played in the top two Chilean leagues, although he didn’t manage to make more than 17 appearances for any one club in his six years there. Next it was PKNS in Malaysia, for whom Jadue netted an impressive 16 goals in 34 games. The move to Port came as a surprise to all, but ended in predictable fashion, with his departure to T2 side Krabi being announced in 2018. Jadue had a thoroughly underwhelming spell at Krabi, who were second bottom of the table when he departed mid-season for Ho Chi Minh City in the Vietnamese top tier. Here’s where things get wild. At the time of writing, Jadue has 6 goals in 8 games, and has absolutely taken V1 by storm. Who saw that coming?

 

 

Japanese left winger Genki Nagasato is a player well-liked by fans and team-mates alike for his enthusiasm and work-rate. He joined Port in 2016 from Ratchaburi, having played for 6 Japanese teams before that, and helped Port gain promotion back to the top flight. In 2017 he found it a little tougher back in the top tier, but once again made an important contribution to Port’s mid-table finish and left with tears in his eyes and his name ringing out among the Port faithful. Genki was never the most technically gifted footballer, but what he lacks in tricks and flicks he makes up for with graft. In 2018, Genki joined recently-founded but ambitious Tokyo United, who are still playing in Tokyo’s regional leagues, but have achieved 3 successive promotions. You won’t find a single Port fan who doesn’t wish Genki the very best in the twilight of his football career.

 

 

This was a strange one. Rennan Oliveira came to Port via Qatar, Greece and his native Brazil, but was the odd man out for most of his time at Port, joining during the 2016 season and never really justifying a place in the squad. As a creative force he was far less useful than Maranhao, and as a defensive force far less solid that Wagner, hence why his time with Port was really just a waste of everyone’s time. As Tim wrote on Facebook at the time: “He brings great hair but nothing more.” Rennan played a few games in the cups, made little impact and was not heard of again until some bizarre rumours suggested that he would be re-signed for the 2017 season. Fortunately that didn’t happen, and Rennan moved back to the Brazilian regional leagues with Sao Bento. After a sideways move to Luverdense, Rennan then secured a move back to Asia with Al -Ain. Wait, what? The same Al-Ain who have dominated Emirati football for decades and reached three AFC Champions League finals? No, a completely different Al-Ain who play in the second tier of Saudi football.

 

 

Wagner Carioca is a strong, combative Brazilian midfielder who spent a tumultuous 2016 season with Port. Brought in at the last minute after the Serginho Incident, Wagner is a player who, besides his brief and unsuccessful dalliance with Port, has spent his whole career in the second to fourth tiers of Brazilian football. When he arrived he looked very impressive, adding strength and guile to Port’s weak midfield, but he found it tough to nail down a regular place in the team with Rochela, Maranhao and Thiago routinely preferred. Wagner was then involved in a very unsavoury incident against Songkhla where, after an insane Thiago Cunha tackle, Wagner appears to have directed racial abuse at Diogo Rangel, who their goalkeeper then restrained with seemingly super-human strength, saving Wagner and Thiago from the batterings they probably deserved. The video can be found here.

Anyway, Wagner was dropped from the squad in the second half of the season, before returning briefly for the last few games after the Thiago Incident (the one where he smashed the door after being subbed off – we appreciate that there were a few) and being released at the end of the season, with mixed feelings from Port fans. Yes, the team did look better with him in defensive midfield, but after his antics against Songkhla, good riddance. After leaving Port, Wagner returned to Macae for a third stint in the Brazilian third tier.

 

 

Serginho’s time at Port consisted of a few friendlies, a suspicious death and possibly an Anelka-esque ride to the airport in the boot of a car. Serginho looked like a promising signing, coming from Daegu FC in the Korean top tier, but looked off the pace in the pre-season friendlies he played for Port after signing at the start of the 2016 season. He was a defensive midfielder who was also tried in central defence, but he didn’t look ideal in either position before a bizarre incident ended his Port career before he had played a competitive game. We don’t know all the details, but apparently there was a tragic fatal accident involving Serginho’s car and a motorcycle. Before we even knew what had happened, Serginho’s contract was cancelled and he left the country in a serious hurry, with Wagner coming in as his replacement. Serginho ended up at Gangwon FC in Korea in 2016, but as far as I can tell has been without a club since the start of the 2017 season, despite being just 29 years old. His Instagram suggests that he plays an awful lot of beach football, although I’m not sure if he is playing competitively.

 

 

Gorka Unda is a talented attacking midfielder, who was a Port player during the 2015 relegation season. Gorka started in the third tier of Spanish football with CF Rayo Majadahonda, but his talent was recognized by a certain Real Madrid (yes, really) who put him in their B team. Unfortunately rather than challenge for a spot in the first team, Gorka was relegated to the C team and eventually released. He went on to play in Spain and Austria, before moving to Thailand in 2014, where he has been ever since. Gorka had a successful season playing alongside one Brent McGrath with Sisaket, before both were snapped up by Port in 2015. In Port’s pretty disastrous squad in that season, Gorka was actually one of Port’s more effective attacking players, despite having the mobility of a large bowl of paella – incidentally, something that the bulky Spaniard looked to have been enjoying a little too much of. His touch and passing could be superb on his day, but it certainly didn’t help the mercurial Madridista that he generally ran out of steam midway through the first half, and that his forwards that season were McGrath, Vincent and Wuttichai. Gorka left Port after they were relegated with some staunch supporters still lauding his creative talents, while others were more than happy to see the back of him. He moved to Khon Kaen in 2016, then after their dissolution he has had short stints with Songkhla, Chainat and now Angthong, who, despite consistently registering top-half T2 placings in recent seasons, Gorka has inspired to a current position of 15th. Out of 15. Gorka can still be seen in PAT Stadium every now and then, as he occasionally pops in to visit fellow Spaniards Rochela and Suarez during mid-season breaks.

 

 

His name is still emblazoned across the shirts of many Port fans to this day. One of the most popular foreign players in recent Port history, Hironori Saruta was a breathtaking winger who on his day could dance through TPL defences at will. He used his speed, balance and low centre of gravity to bamboozle defenders with lightning-fast changes of direction, and as a fan you just knew that when Saruta got the ball anything was possible. Saruta spent the first 3 years of his career in Japan, before moving to Sriracha in 2009, and then spending a very successful 4 years at Bangkok Glass where he notched 30 goals. He joined Port in 2014 and really lit up PAT Stadium, but in the following season he suffered some niggling injuries and didn’t quite find his best form. He moved on to Chiang Rai in 2016, before surprisingly making the step down to Udon Thani in the third tier, who won promotion with former Port trio Saruta, Ali Diarra and Valci Junior all featuring. In 2018, Saruta announced his retirement from football after 9 years in Thailand.

 

 

Ali Diarra is a central midfielder who had 2 stints at Port, firstly on loan from Muangthong in 2013 and then as a permanent signing in 2015. Diarra was a tall, leggy enforcer who was adept at the physical side of the game as well as being a good passer of the ball. In Diarra’s first spell he really earned the adoration of the Khlong Toei faithful, providing a solid platform from which the creative talents of Leandro could be fully utilized. In an anecdote typical of Diarra’s commitment to the cause, Dom tells me about the Ivorian putting in a particularly hard-working shift away at Trat, helping Port secure a crucial win in the push for promotion. When Dom spoke to Ali after the game, it turned out that he had been suffering from diarrhea and really shouldn’t have been on the pitch at all. And so Ali Diarrhea was born! In Ali’s second stint with Port in 2015 he was ludicrously underused, being kept out of the team for the most part by Lee Ho and Gorka. In Gary Stevens’ brief stint in charge Ali was employed as a centre back to pretty good effect, but ultimately it wasn’t to work out for him that season at Port, and he was loaned to Thai Tobacco Monopoly, then BBCU before finally finding a permanent home at Udon Thani in 2017, and moving back to Bangkok FC in 2018.

 

 

Kim Geun-chul was a midfielder who was well-regarded during his stint with Port in 2014. He was a solid, technically sound midfielder who would always give his all for the team, but his impact was limited by fellow Korean Lee Sang-Ho and Saruta, who were often preferred as Port’s Asian foreigners. When he did play he impressed, and when he left at the end of the season the consensus among Port fans was that they would have much preferred to keep hold of him. Alas, he apparently moved on to PTT Rayong, although there is no record of him in their 2015 squad. Kim’s Facebook page tells me that he did in fact play for PTT Rayong and then PT Prachuap, both in the second tier, but the trail then goes cold, suggesting that he probably ended his career at the age of 32 or 33.

 

 

Patrick Reichelt is a German-Filipino winger who played for Port in 2013-14. His career began in the regional leagues of the German fourth tier, but at the age of 24 Reichelt moved to Global FC in the Philippines, and was immediately called up to the Filipino national team. From there he made the move to Port, where he did well in the second tier, although the general feeling was that he was probably not a TPL-calibre player. He showed some impressive skills and trickery during his half-season with Port, but ultimately it was not a huge surprise to anyone when he moved back to the Philippines with Ceros-Negros. At his new club he scored just under a goal a game, which would be a very impressive rate if it wasn’t for the fact that they were winning games 10-0, 11-0 and even 16-0 at the time. Unfortunately, Reichelt suffered a cruciate ligament injury in 2016 and was out of action for more than a year, but is now back in action and playing regular football.

 

 

Ivan Petrovic was an attacking midfielder who spent 6 months of his 20 year career with Port in 2013. Based on what little I can find about his career he seems to be one of the higher-caliber players Port have signed, although that didn’t translate to much success in Khlong Toei. Petrovic began his career in his native Serbia, where his record looked pretty impressive, before moving to Iran, where his career really took off. Wikipedia has Petrovic playing over 200 games, scoring 23 goals and scooping awards such as ‘Foreign Player of the Year’ and ‘Top Assister’. Iranian football clearly saw the best of Petrovic, but at the age of 33 he joined Port and never really got going. From what little is written and remembered about the Serb, he was a decent player with a good pass on him, but he played just 12 games, scoring 3 goals, and no one was particularly bothered to see him move on. His next clubs were Nakhon Ratchasima, Thai Honda and Bangkok FC, after which he moved to Global FC in the Philippines. Much like Reichelt, Petrovic was notching up more than a goal or an assist per game, although his team were regularly sticking double figures past their opponents. In 2017, Petrovic finally called time on a long and successful career at the age of 37.

 

 

Kim Ba-We was a Port midfielder between 2011 and 2013. In stark contrast to Petrovic, this stint with Port may well represent the entirety of Kim’s professional footballing career. This is based on the fact that I can find nothing at all about the man online, except a few social media accounts in which there are hundreds of pictures of his time with Port and no reference whatsoever to any other clubs he has played for. The closest thing we have to news about his departure is speculation on Facebook about him moving to Ayutthaya in June 2013. In the end he did leave Port mid-season, but there is no record of him joining Ayutthaya. For more on Kim’s ability as a player, I direct you to this excellent article by Sandpit contributor Andy Hailstone, who we assume was in possession of a stress-ball while trying to put a positive spin on a man that some have described as the worst foreign player to play for Port in recent memory.

 

 


 

If there are some players you think I’ve missed, first check out my piece on strikers, as some of them played both positions, then leave a comment and let me know who!

 

Tom Earls

Tom Earls

Having moved to Thailand aged 10, Tom has been playing or watching football in Thailand for more than 18 years. A keen follower of the Thai National Team and an avid fan of Port FC, he is a regular contributor to The Sandpit.

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