Interviews

Natxo Insa: The newly naturalised Malaysian midfielder shining brightly at JDT

If recent performances are anything to go by, Johor Darul Ta’zim have got their hands on a gem and him obtaining a Malaysian identity makes it all the more better.  

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The arrival of Portuguese Ulisses Morais seems to have changed JDT’s game play from a more individualistic one to a style that required everyone to play a part with a calm and possession-based approach.

While Morais deserved much credit, one player that has made the transformation possible, or rather much easier, is none other than Natxo Insa.

Like his brother Kiko, who took up Malaysian citizenship after signing for JDT’s rivals Pahang at the start of the season, Insa became naturalised through his grandmother.

The comparisons end there however.

Kiko Insa too has Malaysian citizenship

Having previously played in Spain for a list of clubs that included Valencia, Villarreal, Celta de Vigo, Real Zaragoza and Levante, the older of the two brothers is proving to be the signing of the season for the Southern Tigers.

Fans and critics are already awed by Insa, but the midfielder believed they are yet to see him at his best until he truly settled down in Malaysia.

Now, I am doing the best adaptation I can and quickly too. Fortunately, it hasn’t been too difficult yet

“I’m feeling very good here. Everything is new but I am trying my utmost best to settle in. As time goes, I will be able to do more,” Insa told FourFourTwo.

“The weather is something different, I am in a new team with new teammates, it’s a new league and the mentality is different. Every country has a different mentality because football is often played differently.

“Now, I am doing the best adaptation I can and quickly too. Fortunately, it hasn’t been too difficult yet.”

Nelo Vingada has another option to call upon now

Insa is expected to be part of Nelo Vingada’s next Malaysia squad as Harimau Malaya prepare to face Hong Kong in the Asian Cup qualifiers in September.

It would be a big surprise if Insa, considering the quality he has, was not called-up by Vingada.

The Portuguese recently said he was on the lookout for naturalised players and a No.6 type of player, two criteria that Insa fulfilled easily.

THE JDT MOVE AND WHAT HE BRINGS

Predominantly a holding midfielder, Insa’s sheer quality meant it was easy for him to play anywhere for JDT in midfield.

He has slotted well alongside club skipper Safiq Rahim, with Afiq Fazail or Amirul Hadi Zainal playing in a deeper role.

His move to JDT was a surprise considering he had just helped Levante to promotion to the La Liga, Spain’s top flight.

“I feel good playing with them … they like to play football, have some nice skills and sometimes we get good moves going in the middle. Our passing with each other has been good too,” said Insa.

“They have helped me settle down in this short period since I arrived and sometimes they are making things easier for me, or even making me look good.”

His move to JDT was a surprise considering he had just helped Levante to promotion to the La Liga, Spain’s top flight.

Instead of the chance to go up against the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, Insa will be playing in the Malaysia Super League (MSL) with the likes of Kedah, Selangor and Pahang.

Natxo Insa has been winning admirers at JDT

He told FourFourTwo that he was impressed with the Southern Tigers’ vision and that at 31, there was no better time to make a move.

One thing was clear though, Insa had to lead by example in Malaysia.

“JDT are a big team in Malaysia and when I was speaking with them, especially the boss (Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, we spoke about how they work and what they want to achieve,” he added.

“The mentality here is strong and they want to win everything. Plus, my brother was here in Malaysia and there is a chance for international football. One step at a time though.

“My experience from Spain is also good for the club. I am trying to bring a lot of that here.”

With JDT desperately trying to reach the AFC Champions League group stage, Insa could finally be the final piece in their jigsaw to accomplish that goal.

Photos: Asiana.my