After their success at Asian Cup, many members of the Vietnamese national football team attracted attention from foreign clubs. Some of them went overseas to improve their skill sets by competing in a more developed football environment.
Goalkeeper Dang Van Lam joined Thai club Muangthong United in February for a fee of $500,000, while striker Nguyen Cong Phuong went to South Korea’s Incheon United on loan.
However, this is not the first time that a Vietnamese player has joined a foreign football club. In Vietnam’s football history, there have been others who have taken on an overseas challenge.
Here are six notable players who had played and are playing for foreign clubs.
The first Vietnamese player who played for a foreign club is striker Le Huynh Duc. The former footballer played for the Vietnam national football team from 1995 to 2004 and scored 34 goals. In his prime, Duc was considered one of the greatest players in Vietnamese football, having won three Vietnamese Golden Ball Awards, given to the best performing player in a calendar year.
Le Huynh Duc (red) when he was still playing for Vietnam national football team. Photo courtesy of AFC
In 2001, Le Huynh Duc had a four-month spell with China’s Chongquing Dangdai Lifan F.C. Although this was just a business deal, Duc managed to score a goal in four games for the Chinese club.
After retiring, Duc, now 46, became a football coach and helped SHB Da Nang FC emerge as the V. League 1 champions in 2009.
One of the best football players in Vietnam, Le Cong Vinh, 33, is the most prolific scorers for the national football team, having netted 51 goals in 83 games. The retired forward is ranked 37 among top international football goal scorers by country. Just like Le Huynh Duc, Vinh has won three Vietnamese Golden Ball Awards.
Le Cong Vinh (R) is the most prolific scorer for the Vietnam national team. Photo courtesy of AFC
Vinh was the first ever Vietnamese footballer to play in a professional European league, when he moved to Portugal’s top flight league Primeira Liga side Leixoes S.C. in 2009 and scored one goal in two games. He returned to Vietnam the following year.
Four years later, Vinh once again played overseas when he joined Japan’s J2 League side Consadoel Sapporo on loan. During his four-month spell for the club, he managed to score two goals in nine appearances.
A product of the Hoang Anh Gia Lai – Arsenal JMG Academy, Nguyen Tuan Anh was a talented, promising and gifted midfielder, winning Vietnam’s young player of the year award in 2014. The 23-year-old has represented Vietnam at U19, U23 and national levels.
Nguyen Tuan Anh (C) had a few games for the national team before suffering bad injuries. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Dong
In 2015, Anh joined Japan’s Yokohama FC in a season-long loan. Although he only had two appearances in six months, Anh scored one goal for the club. He then suffered several injuries and returned to play football last year, with the hope of playing for the national football team again.
Like Nguyen Tuan Anh, Nguyen Cong Phuong is a product of the Hoang Anh Gia Lai – Arsenal JMG Academy. The 24 year-old forward is currently a key player in the national football team. When he was a young player, Phuong was considered one of the most promising talents in Vietnamese football. His dribbling skills reminded fans of Lionel Messi, and he also had a similar style of play and physique.
Nguyen Cong Phuong (red) in an Asian Cup 2019 game. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Dong
Phuong first got the taste of overseas football when he played for Japan’s Mito HollyHock in J2 League on a loan for $100,000 in 2016. During his time at the club, Phuong only had six appearances and most of them were from the bench. His spell at Mito HollyHock was considered more of a commercial deal than a professional one.
In February 2019, Phuong was loaned to South Korea’s K. League 1 team Incheon United on a loan until the end of the season. Although he only had five appearances, mostly from the bench, his performance was positively commented on by local media.
The Vietnamese midfielder is another product of the Hoang Anh Gia Lai – Arsenal JMG Academy. Luong Xuan Truong is a regular member of the national football team who has won praise for his vision, passing and set piece abilities.
The 23-year-old has played for three overseas clubs. In 2016 he joined Incheon United on a two-year loan deal for $300,000. Truong was the first Vietnamese player to play in the K. League. He only had four appearances during his time at Incheon United. Truong continued his adventure in South Korea by joining Gangwon FC for the 2017 season, where he played two games for the club.
Luong Xuan Truong (red) in a training with the national team. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Thoa
The two years in South Korea were not a rosy time for Truong, as he struggled to get a spot in the main team and played less than 10 games.
In February 2019, Truong moved to Thai League 1 club Buriram United on a year loan. On his first appearance in the AFC Champions League for Buriram, Truong made an impression by assisting a goal in the club’s 1-3 defeat.
Dang Van Lam had a different journey compared to other Vietnamese players. The Vietnamese-Russian goalkeeper spent his youth at big clubs in Russia like Spartak Moscow and Dynamo Moscow, but returned to Vietnam and went to Laos before going back to play for lower level Russian clubs. In all these clubs he struggled to be a regular starter. His career only took off when he decided to play for Hai Phong FC, where he made 76 appearances for the club.
Dang Van Lam in AFF Cup 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Dong
His efforts paid off when he was chosen as the main goalkeeper for the Vietnam national football team in AFF Cup 2018, where he helped Vietnam lift the title after 10 years of waiting. His performance in the tournament earned him a big reputation, with Thai League 1 giant Muangthong United buying him from Hai Phong FC for $500,000 and signing a three-year contract with a monthly salary of $10,000.
In the new club, Dang Van Lam has been the main goalkeeper and he proved his value immediately by making many saves in seven games for Muangthong, despite the team’s poor performances of late.