JDT keep hitting a Champions League brick wall. So what's the point?

As Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) returned from their loss to Gamba Osaka in midweek to resume Malaysia Super League duties, they could be forgiven for questioning the point of it all.

JDT want to become a powerhouse in Asia, but the system is stacked against such an occurrence.

The Malaysians may be ambitious, professional, forward-thinking and all the rest, but they are also stuck in an Asian straitjacket.

It is a convoluted route to the summit of Asian football; the skimpiest of sambal sauce from which to create a Nasi Lemak

The theory goes that years in the AFC Cup will help turn a team into one that is ready for the Asian Champions League (ACL), helped by repeated playoff attempts against teams from Thailand, China, Japan et al. 

Getting past a Thai team at their third attempt has been used as evidence of progress and it did signal the first time the Southern Tigers had reached the final round of qualifying.

The ensuing 3-0 loss to 2008 ACL champions Gamba was not unexpected, but that is same scoreline JDT lost to Bangkok Glass by in 2015.

The hope is they learn from the Japan defeat and then come back stronger next year. It is, however, a convoluted route to the summit of Asian football; the skimpiest of sambal sauce from which to create a Nasi Lemak. 

Celebrating domestically has become par for the course

Australia joined the Asian Football Confederation in 2006 as they realised the quadrennial two-legged World Cup playoff against South American opposition was detrimental to development.

The Aussies likely would have applied to Asia a lot sooner if that playoff had always been a single-leg away game at a country regarded as much stronger.

For now, the AFC Cup is the consolation for JDT. There is little doubt that competition, reserved for Asia's 'developing nations', has been a useful step along the developmental path for the Malaysians who won it in 2015 and reached the semi-finals the following year.

But in the coming weeks, JDT’s group stage opposition will be Myanmar's Magwe, Global of the Philippines and Cambodian team Boeung Ket Angkor.

No disrespect to any of those teams, but that isn’t really the kind of opposition these Malaysians want to be facing any more.

Muangthong United, meanwhile, have Kashima Antlers, Brisbane Roar and Ulsan Hyundai in the ACL. This is more like it.

The Malaysia Super League (MSL) does not help as much as it could either.

JDT are clearly the best team in the country. This is the case on the pitch, with three consecutive titles, and certainly off it too.

The MSL has its attractions, but given the financial issues that many teams are confronting, it is hard to say the league is developing along with its champions.

[NEXT PAGE: Are JDT too good for the MSL?]