The Local Game: From bad to worse for HAGL

September, 13/2022 - 08:52
HAGL sit sixth in the V.League 1 table a full 10 points off leaders Hà Nội FC and with a paltry 14 goals in 13 games, a far cry from the swashbuckling style we saw last season.
HAGL could be about to lose star forward Nguyễn Công Phượng for free. Photo danviet.vn

Peter Cowan

Things change quickly in football, one minute you’re at the top of the pile, the next you’re a basement dweller.

Last year, Hoàng Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) were the class of the V.League 1.

In a season that was ultimately scrapped due to COVID-19, they were clearly the best team, playing some magnificent football and finally living up to all the longstanding hype around the team and their golden generation.

That was then though, and in the here and now, the outlook is a lot less rosy in Pleiku.

HAGL sit sixth in the V.League 1 table a full 10 points off leaders Hà Nội FC and with a paltry 14 goals in 13 games, a far cry from the swashbuckling style we saw last season.

The low point may have come last week, when they needed penalties after a 0-0 draw to advance past relegation favourites Sài Gòn FC in the National Cup.

It’s hard to say what has gone wrong for Kiatisuk Senamuang’s side as they do still have bags of talent up and down the pitch, but that may be about to change, and things will go from bad to worse.

HAGL’s golden generation includes four national team stars that were all in the same academy class, meaning all four of their contracts expire at the same time – after this season.

Nguyễn Công Phượng, Lương Xuân Trường, Nguyễn Tuấn Anh and Trần Minh Vương are some of Vietnamese football’s brightest stars, and in a few short months, HAGL could lose them all for nothing.

Unlike in European football, there is a distinct lack of player power in Việt Nam when it comes to contractual issues.

Yes, the top players can earn big paydays, but the excessive lengths of the youth contracts players sign often means clubs can squat on their rights long after they have outperformed the terms they are on.

This means that at the age of 27, the four HAGL stars are getting their first chance of a big transfer payday. Sure, they may have earned more money than most of us can imagine via bonuses and endorsements, but this is their first shot at a lucrative signing bonus.

You don’t have to be Mystic Meg to figure out this means at least two of them are on their way out, as HAGL will struggle to pay all four at once.

Incidents like this and Hà Nội losing Nguyễn Quang Hải for nothing should give clubs pause for thought.

Wouldn’t HAGL have been better served to have given a couple of that quartet contract extensions a few years ago?

Yes, in the short term it would cost financially and is a risk, but in the long run, losing homegrown stars for nothing costs more. VNS

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