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Not good enough for the Malaysian second division, meet the winger now in World Cup contention

For a sushi-loving winger with speed and technical skill like Andrew Nabbout, signing with Japanese giants Urawa Red Diamonds represents a dream move. It also marks a remarkable rise, barely 18 months after being cut by then-Malaysian second division team Negeri Sembilan.

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The 25-year-old Australian capped off a memorable week when he earned his first ever call-up for the Socceroos, named in Bert van Marwijk’s squad for March’s pre-World Cup friendlies against Norway and Colombia.   

The news came as he flew to Japan after saying goodbye to his Newcastle Jets teammates, just hours after masterminding a stunning upset victory over A-League champions Sydney FC.

Nabbout’s career was in limbo as recently as June 2016 when he was shown the door by Negeri in the mid-season transfer window

The Lebanese-Australian scored the match-winner in last Sunday’s 2-1 home triumph for the 10-man Jets in front of more than 18,000 fans, as the perennial strugglers moved within eight points of the runaway leaders. 

And yet Nabbout’s career was in limbo as recently as June 2016 when he was shown the door by Negeri in the mid-season transfer window, along with fellow Aussie Joel Chianese.

Nabbout, Chianese and two other former A-League players – Taylor Regan and Alex Smith – were recruited by former coach Gary Phillips as Negeri aimed for instant promotion to the Malaysia Super League.

But despite a solid start to the season – Nabbout and Chianese led the goals and assist charts with a Negeri side sitting in the top three – both were moved on after just five months.

Nabbout was cut by the Victory before moving to Malaysia

It was a bitter blow to Nabbout’s career – he had been released by his junior club Melbourne Victory the previous year – but the 2015 FFA Cup champion went about rebuilding his career with struggling Newcastle.

Ironically, being released by Negeri Sembilan was probably the best thing that could have happened to him

- Gary Philips

Nabbout bounced back with eight league goals last year and was named player of the season, although Newcastle finished bottom of the A-League for the third time.

But in 2017/18 under new coach Ernie Merrick, the Jets have had their best campaign since winning the 2008 title, with Nabbout scoring 12 times in 20 games in all competitions.

“Ironically, being released by Negeri Sembilan was probably the best thing that could have happened to him because his blood was boiling at the time,” Phillips said.

‘’He has shown such focus and determination and the fact that Urawa chose him over seasoned Socceroo and ex-Bundesliga forward Robbie Kruse is an indication of his quality in the final third.

“And he virtually lives on sushi, so he’s pretty excited about the sushi trains that Japan will offer!”

[NEXT: A chance to establish himself in Asia's best league]