Interviews

TMJ, One-on-One: Insa's absence & laying down the law to Vingada

Why isn't Natxo Insa part of the current Malaysian squad? It's a question the country has been asking after the Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) star was again omitted by coach Nelo Vingada. JDT owner Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim explained to FourFourTwo why the midfielder has yet to make an International bow.

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Insa signed for JDT from Spanish side Levante in July and has been registered as a local player in the Malaysia Super League (MSL) after being granted citizenship.

Insa and his younger brother Kiko at Pahang both obtained Malaysian passports in 2017 because their grandmother is from Malaysia.

He said if he doesn’t get results for JDT his image would drop. Insa is more than happy to play for Malaysia after contributing to JDT first

- Tunku Ismail

Kiko signed for Pahang in January and made his international debut in September but Insa, who appears to be the better player of the duo, has yet to don the national colours.

Vingada’s squad for the Asian Cup qualifiers in September and October was expected to include Insa after his impressive performance for the Southern Tigers.

READ ALSO: The newly naturalised midfielder shining bright at JDT

Yet Malaysian football fans were left puzzled when his name was missing from the squad announcement. The Portuguese gaffer has brushed aside such questions, choosing instead to focus on the players he has called up.

Tunku Ismail, however, was more open to talking about the matter in an exclusive interview with FourFourTwo in Johor Bahru.

Insa has adjusted very quickly to his new surroundings

“Insa said to me that he would play any game next year, but asked that we understand his situation of having just played a tough season in Spain and had come to Malaysia after that,” said Tunku Ismail.

“Insa has not had rest and wants to focus on settling down at club level first.

I told Vingada he can call anyone if it was four days prior to a match as per international practice … but if it’s for one month, no

“He also said if he doesn’t get results or impresses for JDT his image would drop. Insa is more than happy to play for Malaysia after contributing to JDT first.”

The 31-year-old product of Valencia’s academy was a regular in Levante’s successful 2016/17 Segunda Division campaign, where Les Granotes earned promotion to La Liga after winning the second tier by 14 points over second-placed Girona.

Insa, who has also played for Villareal B, Celta Vigo and Real Zaragoza in Spain, quickly emerged as the best player in the MSL – including imports – despite only arriving after the mid-season break in June.

Insa, however, is not the only JDT player Vingada has left out of his latest squad.

While JDT have six players – Safiq Rahim, Nazmi Faiz Mansor, Amirul Hadi Zainal, Ahmad Hazwan Bakri, Darren Lok and Safawi Rasid – for Malaysia’s trip to Hong Kong on October 10, none of their defenders or goalkeepers made the squad.

TMJ still has clear instructions for national team players

Defenders Fazly Mazlan, S. Kunanlan, Fadhli Shas and Junior Eldstal – the MSL champions’ best back four at the moment – were not included.

Fadhli and Azrif Nasrulhaq were named for a couple of friendlies and Hong Kong’s visit in the last round of international matches, but later pulled out due to injury.

Last year, several JDT and JDT II players were ordered back from national camp

“I told Nelo that we are all here to work together, not become enemies. Marcos Antonio has been out because of injury and Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak has been shaky … JDT only have Eldstal and Fadhli for centre-back,” said Tunku Ismail.

“For Fazly, I asked for him to be included because he is the best left-back in the country, but Vingada wanted more time to work on him.

“Vingada can still call them up but not for two weeks or a month. I told Vingada he can call anyone if it was four days prior to a match as per international practice. I will let all my players go … but if it’s for one month, no.”

Tunku Ismail has been consistent about urging the national team to only call-up players four days prior to matches since before he became FAM president in March this year.

Last year, several JDT and JDT II players were ordered back from national camp and were only released four days prior to friendlies against Singapore and Afghanistan in October.

“I told Vingada no month-long call-ups … or he is out. I explained to him why,” said Tunku Ismail.

“The players can get demoralised. If they are fit but are made to watch videos and work on tactical stuff every day, there will be information overload.”

Photos: Asiana.my