Follow Chanathip: Five young Southeast Asians we think should be playing overseas
In Southeast Asia the talent is endless and here we take a look at five players we think have what it takes to take their game to the next level outside Southeast Asia.
Gian Zola (Indonesia)
When you’re named after one of the most skilful and elegant players of the last 25 years – Chelsea great Gianfranco Zola – it comes with a certain amount of pressure and expectation.
But it seems this 18-year-old, whose full name is Gian Zola Nasrulloh Nugraha, is capable of handling it all.
If he continues to perform for club and country as he has so far, the future is bright for Gian Zola
The left-footer, who has a similar stature to that of his namesake, joined one of the biggest clubs in Indonesia, Persib Bandung, as a 17-year-old and hasn’t looked out of place when he’s out on the pitch.
His talent hasn’t gone unnoticed by Indonesian national team coach Luis Miller, who handed Zola his full debut for the Merah-Putih in a friendly against Myanmar in March this year.
Just last month he scored his first international goal in a 2-0 win over Cambodia in Phnom Penh.
Zola, an attacking midfielder, shows maturity beyond his years in how he sees and reads the game. He has already attracted interest from European clubs, with Latvian side FC Metta reportedly expressing interest in the Indonesian starlet.
While he remains at Persib, if he continues to perform for club and country as he has so far, the future is bright for Gian Zola.
Chan Vathanaka (Cambodia)
Cambodia might not be considered one of the top nations in Southeast Asia, but in Chan Vathanaka they undoubtedly have one of the region’s best young players.
Vathanaka’s talent has been known for some time, with the 23-year-old banging in goals for fun at Boeung Ket Angkor, who he joined as an 18-year-old back in 2012. Before long he made his debut with the national team and has developed into an integral player for the Cambodians.
Last year he helped Cambodia qualify for their first AFF Suzuki Cup since 2008, scoring twice in the decisive qualifying match against Timor-Leste and twice again against Malaysia in the opening match as Cambodia almost pulled off an upset win, going down 3-2.
His languid style can be compared to that of a fellow left-footer, Australia’s Tom Rogic. The way he glides across the pitch is impressive, as is his ability to beat an opponent one-on-one with exquisite ball control that can be compared to that of Chanathip.
All of that was the reason Fujieda MYFC, in Japan’s J3, took Vathanaka on loan for this season.
While he is yet to make an appearance, with Fujieda coach Atsuto Oishi admitting he needs to work on his strength along with other areas of his game, the experience will be invaluable and with his undoubted talent there is more to come from Vathanaka.