Fandi: Hariss must develop attacking instinct
Fandi says he must become a goalscoring midfielder to succeed in Europe
With one Suzuki Cup title, one AFC Cup triumph and four Malaysian Super League crowns over the last five years, midfielder Hariss Harun is Singapore's most successful footballer.
Johor Darul Ta'zim I's decision to send the 26-year-old on a year-long loan either to a Portuguese or Japanese club has injected much excitement into the local football fraternity.
Having played in Europe, Fandi Ahmad, V Sundramoorthy, Aleksandar Duric and Daniel Bennett know what it takes to succeed abroad.
While they backed Hariss to come good, the quartet also provided some valuable insight over what's in store for the Lions' star and what he has to get right abroad.
Fandi Ahmad, Singapore's greatest football export, went for trials with Ajax Amsterdam in 1982 and played for FC Groningen in Holland's top flight from 1983 to 1985.
The former striker, who is now part of the coaching set-up at the Football Association of Singapore, urged Hariss to step up his attacking game.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, the 54-year-old said: "Footballers of this generation are built and developed to be stronger and more physical, but most also lack creativity.
"Hariss is strong defensively but, to stand out, he has got to be a thinker and be more creative and help his team in attack with quick penetrating moves."
Hariss, who is reportedly on US$30,000 (S$43,200) a month at JDT I, has already amassed 71 international caps, but has chalked up only four goals for the Lions.
Singapore defender Bennett joined Welsh outfit Wrexham in February 2002 and played in the third tier of English football, winning the FAW Premier Cup during the stint which ended in 2003.
Leagues in Europe are nearly halfway through the current season, while the J.League will kick off their new campaign in February.
Bennett, 38, said: "Teams are usually settled during mid-season and depending on their position in the league, games can be crucial if they are gunning for silverware, continental competition or fighting relegation.
"Teams may also have their own social hierarchies in the dressing room and already know where they fit in.
"It's not easy to be accepted right away and some players may not welcome the extra competition. It will not be easy to earn a chance to play as he has not proven himself at that level yet."
In 2010, a 19-year-old Hariss went for a 10-day trial with Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua and struggled.
It was reported that he ate nothing but plain spaghetti with spinach and long beans for lunch or dinner, as the club's kitchen served mostly non-halal food. The teenager lost three kilogrammes.
He also did not speak Mandarin, which limited interaction with his teammates.
Duric, who played in Serbia, Hungary and Australia in the 1990s before settling in Singapore, said: "Asean footballers tend to struggle with food and weather. Having spent so much time in Singapore, even a Bosnia-born like me now shivers in 13 degrees Celsius.
"Fitness levels, competition for a place in the starting line-up, training and game intensity in Europe or Japan will double or triple what he has been used to in South-east Asia.
"But having had the privilege of playing alongside Hariss, I believe in him because I see how strong he is physically and mentally."
Singapore national football coach V Sundramoorthy, who played in Switzerland for Basel from 1988 to 1989, also feels that Hariss is ready for the challenge.
The 51-year-old said: "It would have been good if he had gone to Europe or Japan when he was younger but, at this age, with more than 70 caps' worth of experience, it is still good timing as he is in his prime.
"Training and playing against top players will not just benefit Hariss, but also Singapore football."