The Local Game: Race for the stars

May 27, 2024 - 08:10
Three of Việt Nam's megastars are having their contracts ending this season, and are looking for opportunities elsewhere.


Golden Ball winner Nguyễn Hoàng Đức (centre) and runner-up Phạm Tuấn Hải (left) are among the players looking for a move after this season.  VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Vũ

Anh Đức

The V-League's end is nearing with five games left on the board. The title race seems have cooled down as Nam Định FC cruise towards the finish line with the teams following fumbling. Another race, however, is heating up: the race to compete for local star players, with two Vietnamese Golden Ball winners and one runner-up at the end of their contracts.

First up, two-time and current Vietnamese Golden Ball Nguyễn Hoàng Đức. The 26-year-old's contract with Thể Công-Viettel will run out after seven seasons. Rumours have said that Đức will not renew his contract and is looking for opportunities abroad in either Japan or Thailand.

Phạm Tuấn Hải, who is the 2023 Vietnamese Silver Ball winner, is also nearing the end of his contract with Hà Nội FC. Tuấn Hải was a shining light in a somewhat dismal season for the record V-League winners, and has risen to claim Hà Nội's starting striker role, a place normally occupied by foreign players.

And last but not least, the "Vietnamese Messi", Nguyễn Quang Hải, who after his failure in France, have since returned to Việt Nam to play for Hà Nội Police, and won a V-League in his last season. Quang Hải's agent claimed that he may not extend his contract with Hà Nội Police, and aim to return to Europe or seek clubs in Japan.

As all three are in their prime years, the notion of "getting out and experience something new" is abundant, and the most important thing for players of this calibre is to earn money. This is not a materialistic view, but rather realistic.

Should a player look to go abroad, the risks of playing times, different environment and culture must also be taken into consideration. Just look at Quang Hải in France, and Công Phượng in Japan who have minimal playing times, which leads to their poor form after returning to the national team setups.

The Thai League might not be the top destination for Vietnamese stars, but it is a competitive tournament where players are respected and the level of play is quite similar to the V-League, of which the players can adapt to.

Another option is to stay in Việt Nam, which is very much a comfort zone for players. However, looking at the current V-League leaders, one can tell the whole league's dependency on foreign players. And teams such as Nam Định would rather spent billions to sign a tall Brazillian striker than to spread that out for a hotshot local star.

"To have Quang Hải or Hoàng Đức playing in the squad is an honour, but Hải Phòng FC don't have that financial capacity," said Hải Phòng's manager Chu Đình Nghiêm.

So in looking at all the possibilities, these three stars should sought out opportunities abroad, with Thailand being a great step towards continental success. However, wherever they may be, they must also strive for a place in the starting line-up, rather than being a rotation player or a substitute, to maximise the effectivity of a risky move away from home.  VNS