Southeast Asia

Buriram United Target Bali’s Naturalised Striker Ilija Spasojevic

With the season coming to a close, Buriram United are already being linked with some notable close-season moves. Most recently, the club have been linked to naturalized Indonesian striker Ilija Spasojevic, who currently plays for Liga 1 leaders Bali United. Today, Football Tribe Indonesia’s Steven Danis gives his thoughts on what Thai League fans can expect if this move does go through.

Please explain a little bit about Ilija Spasojevic’s background 

Ilija Spasojevic born in Bar, Yugoslavia (now part of Montenegro) 32 years ago. He has international experience as a member of the U-17 and U-19 sides of the Serbia-Montenegro National Team, and when the two nations separated in 2006, he became a member of U-21 Montenegro national team. He was naturalized for Indonesia in 2017. He has played for various clubs in Indonesia, including Persib Bandung, PSM Makassar, Bhayangkara and now Bali United. 


Do you think Spasojevic is a good signing for Buriram United? Why or why not? 

Due to his status as naturalization player Buriram will likely get an ASEAN quota player with European style. Standing in 187 centimeters, he can benefit Buriram in the air. Ilija’s goals record proves that he can add something to Buriram’s forward line, where Nacer Barazite and Rasmus Jonsson have struggled. He also can take the pressure off youngsters Supachai Jaided and Suphanat Mueanta, and transfer some experience to them too. 


Spasojevic has only played a handful of games for Indonesia since his naturalization. Why has he struggled to get into the national team? 

Two years ago, Spaso became the main striker for the national team before Alberto ‘Beto’ Goncalves’ naturalization process finish. Luis Milla was the first coach to call him for the squad, but he also appears to have been the last one. Since Simon McMenemy entered the national team, Spaso hasn’t qualified to play for the Garuda.  I think it’s only a tactical problem as he isn’t the ideal striker that Simon needs, even though he has managed to score 10 goals from 20 appearances this season.


What kind of player is he? How would you describe his playing style?

Spaso is like a monster in the box. He has a powerful shot, good physical traits and also a magnificent header. He can score easily with every part of his body. A typical number 9 who not only score, he can also be “a wall” to bounce back the ball to both wingers or players around him who try to cut in and shoot the ball in various positions with excellent hold-up play. 


Do you think it has been good for Indonesian players to the Thai League?

Before Spaso, Victor Igbonefo has already played in the Thai League [this season with PTT Rayong] so it is not a burden for naturalized players to play in the Thai League. However, he may have to sacrifice his spot in the National Team, which tends to favor players who are currently in Liga 1. However, I think he can be an exception if he gets regular game time for Buriram in the Thai League or even the AFC Champions League.