Singapore national football star Hariss Harun is set for a loan-stint to Portugal or Japan, it was revealed on Wednesday (Dec 14).
In a move that is aimed at developing the talented 26-year-old midfielder, Malaysian champions Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) revealed in a Facebook post that sending the Lions vice-captain abroad “is the best arrangement for the club”.
“Hariss Harun is a good and disciplined player. He means a lot to the club and we will send him out to a Portuguese or Japanese club on a year-long loan,” said JDT’s head coach Mario Gomez. “I’m sure at his current age, his playing ability will improve if he’s given a chance to play at a higher level.”
The Argentinian tactician added: “He will be a valuable asset for the club in the future when he returns from the overseas club.”
Hariss, 26, is widely regarded as one of the best midfielders in the region. A tireless box-to-box player who is tough in the tackle and a fine passer, he is the youngest ever in Singapore history to make his full national team debut in 2007 at the age of 16 years and 217 days.
One of JDT’s highest-paid players with a reported salary of US$30,000 (S$42,700) a month, his two-year contract ends next year.
Hariss has enjoyed great success since joining JDT on November 2013, quickly becoming a fan favourite with his tireless running and wholehearted performances.
He helped JDT win three league titles on the trot (2014 to 2016), the Malaysian FA Cup the past season, as well as the prestigious AFC Cup last year. In 2013, he had also won the Malaysian Super League with the now defunct Singapore side LionsXII.
However, he could not replicate his club form for the Singapore national team, as the Lions failed to qualify for the knockout rounds of the past two editions of the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup.
Before he joined JDT, Hariss was on the verge of accepting a contract offer from Portuguese Primeira Liga side, Rio Ave in July 2013.
The deal was brokered by renowned agent Jorge Mendes – the representative of four-time world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo – and supported by Singaporean billionaire Peter Lim. However, talks broke down reportedly over Hariss’ National Service commitments and salary issues.
If Hariss moves to Portugal, he will be following the likes of Fandi Ahmad, V Sundramoorthy and Daniel Bennett as Lions who played professional football in Europe.
Former Singapore international R. Sasikumar reckons that Hariss is now in “the best situation” to play overseas, and described the move as “win-win” for the midfielder.
“JDT is sending him out on loan, so that means that he still has a club to return to when his loan ends,” explained the registered player agent who helped to bring former English Premier League player Jermaine Pennant to S.League club Tampines Rovers this year.
“So Hariss is not taking a huge risk and throwing everything out of the window in going overseas to play.
“He will go there with peace of mind, and can focus fully on making the most of this opportunty, improving as a player. trying to get into the squad, and then into the first team. And then he will return to JDT a much better player. It’s a dream move, a win-win for everyone.”
Sasikumar also believes that Hariss will do well in Portugal if that is where he is heading.
“The Portuguese league is not the Premier League, or La Liga or the Bundesliga, and I think Hariss is not far off the standard of play in Portugal. If Frederic Mendy can score goals regularly there, then Hariss can definitely play there.”
Mendy was a former striker for Etoile FC and Home United in the S.League, scoring 62 goals in 87 games in his two seasons in Singapore before moving to Portugal to play for clubs like Estoril, Moreirense and Uniao Medeira.
“Hariss is a good pro and his head is screwed on right,” said Sasikumar. “He’s a bit more experienced now, he has tasted what it is like to be a professional player playing in a foreign club with his stint at JDT, and now he is getting a possible second shot at playing in a higher league, either in Portugal or Japan.
“He’s going to make the most of it.”