Nguyen Quang Hai, this is going to hurt

There are as many fantastic, as there are seasons in a year, as Vietnamese players playing in Europe. But this total could soon jump by 25%: Nguyen Quang Hai, presented as “the Vietnamese Messi” and a true prophet in his country, arouses covetousness on the Old Continent. Focus on this great talent from Southeast Asia in which Europe has decided to take an interest. Finally.

Southeast Asia: an unevenly globalized space facing new challenges. Senior geography lessons don’t lie, and from a footballing point of view, Vietnam does suffer from this reputation. The proof: there are only four Vietnamese footballers playing in Europe. And yet, none of them play it as a professional. However, at 25, Nguyễn Quang Hải is on the way to becoming one of those Vietnamese to take the plunge, since several French, Belgian and Dutch clubs have looked into the profile of the man who is nicknamed the “Vietnamese Messi” in his country. “He’s the number one superstar in the country. It’s the biggest icon. Yet he is young, testifies Ibou Kebe, 32, former teammate of Quang Hải in Hanoi. A time said to be close to the file, Nantes and Nîmes will not finally enlist the playmaker, as informed by his agent Nguyễn Đắc Văn on Facebook, then confirmed it to us – concerning the NO – Rani Assaf, the president Crocos, which evokes “a risky bet that you can’t afford in a season with four runs” . For now, only FC Metz still seems to hold the rope.

Elegance and ambition

When Ibou Kebe arrives in Asia in 2019, the Alsatian quickly realizes the phenomenon he has in front of him. “For me, when I arrive, I don’t know anyone, but on the first shots… I felt it, I saw it. » And Kebe details the star seed he had before his eyes: “He’s a little lefty. He really has a touch of the ball, how to say… soft. He is beautiful to see playing, he is elegant. And he goes very, very quickly in his sequences. He is a player who can play anywhere. His special? Sole control, pass from the outside. And it goes fast: tac-tac. » Moreover, there is no better than Quang Hải in Vietnam, and that, everyone knows it very well. The interested party including, whose desires of departure date back to at least three years ago. Categorical refusal from the management of the Hanoi club. “Three days after I signed in Hanoi, the president summons us. Meeting. At first I don’t understandremembers Ibou Kebe. And at the end, they explain to me that Quang Hải already wants to leave. And that was in 2019. The problem is that the president told him, and others: “You’re under contract, there’s no one leaving. You honor your contract, I still have a lot to do with you, and I don’t want to leave you.” »
So finally came the time when Quang Hải was done with his contract binding him to Hanoi. And where the idol of a whole nation will fly away towards other skies, those which overhang France, except surprise. If Kebe of course claims time in the versatile attacking midfielder, the Strasbourg player has absolutely no doubts about his success in France. “It’s strong, it’s very strong, this little one. There were matches, frankly, I don’t see how we could win them. And he was changing the decision on his own. On a set piece, on a technical exploit or on a pass he found. » Leo Messi in the text.

The world is Hanoi

Launched as a pro in 2014 in Hanoi, Quang Hải, quickly loaned to Saigon – the club of Hồ Chí Minh City –, then imposed himself in the club whose colors he had worn since he was nine years old, with the key, the trifle of 33 goals in 150 meetings with the squad of the Vietnamese capital. At the same time, its imprint with its selection thickens; at 25, the playmaker in a reduced format (1.68 m) has already played more than 110 times for Vietnam. The count goes like this: 70 caps and 15 goals in youth teams, and since 2017, 43 selections for 10 achievements with the A. In 2019, Quang Hải’s popularity rating doubled in intensity when Vietnam reached the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup, a competition which saw the maestro shine by sending a direct free kick against Yemen.

This notoriety, too, Ibou Kebe quickly measured. “For my first match with Hanoi, we are playing away. And in the locker room, there was only him and me left. I go out, and there, I see 600/700 people shouting. I look, I say: “Is that what Vietnam is like?” Security gets us on the bus, and a player asks me who I went out with. I tell him that I went out with Quang Hải. He starts laughing. He is the Messi of the country! It’s normal, when people see it, they cry” details the former Le Mans striker with great amusement. “If he signs, all French people will see the enthusiasm there is around this player. It’s just amazing. All the Vietnamese will come to see it. Whether he is in the South, in the North, in the East, in the West, they will all come” assures Ibou Kebe, still stunned by the treatment reserved for the Vietnamese icon.

Silk Road

Like any phenomenon cherished by the general public, Quang Hải is a marketing goldmine. But the influence factor is even greater in Vietnam, where groupies flock. His popularity rating is such that the now ex-metronome of Hanoi fills all possible advertising inserts in Vietnam. ” He is everywhererecalls Ibou Kebe. TV commercial: it’s him. Telephones: it’s him. To eat: it’s him. There is everything. For example, when I arrive in Hanoi, we chat in the elevator with the assistant coach. There are ads going by, and it’s him again. All the big sponsorship posters, he’s on it. »

Through Quang Hải, football Asia could see a new gateway to the cream of world football open. However, Ibou Kebe, from his Vietnamese experience, identifies a first obstacle to this talent drain. “The goal for Asian players is to come and play in Europe, because that’s what’s best. There are Messi, Ramos, Neymar, Di María who are in France. In England, the same. It makes you want to come. But the problem, for Asians, is that they are very family. As a result, many stay in Asia, because they have never really been far from their people. » Concerning her, perhaps Europe will stop looking at her navel and take an interest in what is also being done well elsewhere. This is the other obstacle pointed out by the former Hanoian striker. “The problem is that Europe does not look at what is being done in Asia. The only way for him to be seen in Europe is to play a World Cup or competitions with European teams. , explains Ibou Kebe. Convinced that Nguyễn Quang Hải will find admirers in France, Kebe also sees an opportunity to redesign the network of trade routes that once linked Asia to Europe. And to give it, this time, a sporting connotation.“I know that Quang Hải will win. Because I saw him, I played with him. Behind, other players will follow. They have a pool, but it’s not because it’s in Asia that football sucks there. I let you discover: the little one has just arrived, let him sign. »

By Clement Barbier

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