It seems that Malaysian teenage sensation Luqman Hakim Shamsudin is headed to Belgian side KV Kortrijk after all, following the announcement of his current club Selangor on Friday evening.
After protracted negotiations, the Malaysia U-19 striker will be allowed to leave for Belgium soon. While the terms were discussed between the two clubs, several other rumours also surfaced with varying levels of veracity, including one that linked him with English Premier League club Newcastle United.
The confirmation of Luqman's pending departure to Kortrijk has not only pacified Malaysian fans who are eager to see a Malaysian young talent expand his horizons, but also those who do not want to see the 18-year old make bad career choices.
Admittedly, the Belgian club are not as well-known to many in Malaysia as compared to the others linked with him, but in the end we at Goal believe that the Mokhtar Dahari Academy (AMD) graduate has chosen the right club.
Less pressure, bigger chance
The Belgian club are not one of the top sides in the Belgian First Division A, while the league itself is not considered as one the best European domestic leagues (plans have been made to merge it with the Dutch league). Even the club's moniker 'De Kerels', which translates to 'The Guys', suggests a more welcoming and laidback set-up.
While the pressure to succeed is important for any professional player, in recent years, senior team coaches and managers have emphasised the need to avoid over-exposing potential youth talents, for fear of burnout. Kortrijk, whose homeground Guldensporenstadion seats only 9,399 is a perfect club for Luqman to find his European footing, away from lofty expectations and the scrutiny of fans.
And being at a club that boasts no big names ultimately means that Luqman's push to break through to the first team will be more manageable. It will still be tough, but the odds of him succeeding are more forgiving.
Kortrijk are one of football clubs situated under the stable of Malaysian tycoon Tan Sri Dato' Seri Vincent Tan's ownership, which has perhaps paved the way for the youngster to earn a move there.
By his own admission, Vincent has been actively involved in the efforts of bringing Luqman abroad, and he wants to ensure that the youngster succeeds.
"I will assist Luqman personally. He will pave the way for other Malaysian players and I want him to stay in Europe for a long time.
"...I will make sure that he is not a benchwarmer, and that he will get to play even only as a substitute. I want him to gain playing experience for the sake of his career as well as the country," he was quoted as saying by Sinar Harian earlier this week.
This commitment towards his growth, which should enable him to succeed, is the biggest advantage that the club have over others.
On top of this commitment, Vincent has also promised that the club will release Luqman to take part in the 2020 AFC U-19 Championship later this year, as clubs are not required to release players for junior international matches under FIFA regulations.
But most importantly, this Vincent connection still affords Luqman a pathway to the more glamorous English football, as the 68-year old businessman is also the owner of Championship club Cardiff City. If Luqman does well in Belgium, perhaps a move to the Welsh club will follow.
VINCENT TAN AKAN TOLONG LUQMAN . . Pemilik Kv Kortrijk, Tan Sri Vincent Tan akan cuba membantu Luqman Hakim menyesuaikan...Posted by PERKEMBANGAN BOLASEPAK SEMASA on Friday, 3 July 2020
We are reluctant to regard the rumour linking Luqman with Newcastle as anything more than part of an effort to secure a better deal for the parties involved, but the English club do not currently sound like a good club for a no-name (relatively speaking) teenager from Southeast Asia to join.
On top of the tighter competition at Newcastle, there is also the issue of the club's ongoing ownership change. Current owner Mike Ashley is reportedly looking to sell his stake in the club to a Saudi Arabia conglomerate, a move that has been made difficult by the scrutiny of human rights watchdogs as well as the business fraternity. It's safe to say that it is a rather volatile time for the club at the moment.
But even if the sale is given the greenlight, and there is an effort to bring Luqman there, and he is signed by Newcastle, he could well be arriving at a club that is different from the one he signed for. Club ownership changes usually lead to changes in the operations as well, and an unknown teenager like Luqman may end up being considered a liability by the new owners, and will be discarded as soon as it is possible (perhaps to make way for a Saudi teenage sensation).
Kortrijk on the other hand has a surer footing, as proven by Vincent Tan's ownership of Cardiff City. Although in the early years of his Cardiff ownership he made several unpopular decisions that were later overturned, he has owned up to it and has proven himself to be in it for the long run. It is unlikely for Vincent to depart Kortrijk within the next five years, and Luqman can count on the stability that Kortrijk can offer him.