It’s only been 10 days since the end of the 2020 V.League 1 season, which saw Viettel FC lifting their first league title in 22 years. However, many V.League teams are already performing chops and changes to their squad in preparation for the upcoming season. Dethroned Hanoi FC released two of their foreign contingent and brought in one of last season’s best players, while SHB Da Nang showed ambition by bringing in a trio of players into their ranks.
Both Pape Omar Faye and Papa Ibou Kebe were let go last week by 2020 runners-up Hanoi, the former having sustained an injury that kept him out for most of the season while the latter was sent out on loan to Quang Nam FC, where he was unable to save the 2017 V.League 1 champions from relegation.
With both Pape and Papa leaving the capital side, Hanoi brought on one of the standout performers of the 2020 V.League 1 season – Geovane. The Brazilian was a vital cog in the Sai Gon FC engine that finished third in the 2020 season and his presence within Hanoi would surely sparked inspiration for Chu Dinh Nghiem’s men as they prepare for yet another title tussle next season. With Geovane on board as the men in purple’s first signing of the season, Hanoi then went on to reinforce themselves by extending the contracts of veteran goalkeeper Bui Tan Truong and veteran midfielder Le Tan Tai, with their continued wealth of experience vital for Hanoi’s cause.
Meanwhile, Da Nang were making ambitious moves in the Vietnamese transfer market, with the 2012 V.League 1 champions unwilling to finish in the lower reaches of the table again. Le Huynh Duc’s men snapped up two deadly attackers from their league rivals, with Rafaelson arriving from Duoc Nam Ha Nam Dinh and Hedipo swapping Becamex Binh Duong’s Go Dau Stadium for Da Nang’s Hoa Xuan Stadium. Both Rafaelson and Hedipo had scored a combined total of 11 goals throughout the 2020 season as they became key players for their respective clubs, with Rafaelson scoring six for Nam Dinh and Hedipo scoring five for Binh Duong.
Da Nang also brought in Nguyen Huy Hung from recently relegated rivals Quang Nam to reinforce their midfield and they were also rumored to be approaching Song Lam Nghe An’s Ho Tuan Tai, having had made contact with the 25-year old. However, due to undisclosed reasons the move broke down and Tuan Tai moved to Ho Chi Minh City FC instead.
Speaking about Ho Chi Minh City, they had parted ways with head coach Jung Hae-seong after a disappointing season that saw 2019’s runners-up finishing 5th in the table. The Red Battleship are currently seeking Jung’s successor, with the club being linked with former Singha Chiangrai United head coach Ailton Silva, former Port FC and Thailand national team head coach Kiatisuk Senamuang, current BG Pathum United head coach Dusit Chalermsan, and Port’s Thai FA Cup-winning head coach from last season, Choketawee Promrut. However, both Kiatisuk and Choketawee denied the rumors that Ho Chi Minh City were approaching them, with Kiatisuk still focused on his occupation as an ambassador for Thai-owned Premier League club Leicester City, while Choketawee is focusing his efforts at his current club, Thai League 3 side Nakhon Si United.
In terms of players, other than the aforementioned Tuan Tai, Ho Chi Minh City had also brought in former Nam Dinh midfielder Le Sy Minh and former Quang Nam goalkeeper Pham Van Cuong into their fold, while the likes of Seo Yong-duk, Nguyen Huu Tuan, Nguyen Cong Thanh, and Vu Ngoc Tinh bid farewell to the club as talisman Nguyen Cong Phuong looks set to return to his parent club Hoang Anh Gia Lai. The Red Battleship also ended their current kit deal with Kappa and signed up a new deal with Spanish apparel makers Kelme – who had made kits for Nam Dinh, Hong Linh Ha Tinh, and Liga Super Malaysia side Perak FA last season.
Meanwhile, things aren’t looking that rosy at Ho Chi Minh City’s city rivals Sai Gon, with the club taking an axe to their own squad. With a debut appearance in the 2021 AFC Cup on the horizon, Sai Gon instead dismantled their 3rd place-winning team, letting go key players such as Geovane, Pedro Paulo, Ahn Byung-keon, and captain Nguyen Quoc Long, with the quartet among the 16 players released by the men in pink. So far Sai Gon had only brought in Da Nang legend and former Nam Dinh striker Do Merlo into the fold, however with an Asian campaign to look forward to, Sai Gon should start bringing in some heavy hitters as soon as possible.
Sai Gon’s loss is Quang Nam’s gain as the recently relegated side recruited 6 of Sai Gon’s released players as they prepare to mount an immediate comeback to the top flight. Facing an exodus of players expected from a newly-relegated side, Quang Nam quickly patched up their losses by signing goalkeeper Tong Duc An, defender Trinh Duc Loi, and midfielders Tran Van Buu, Nguyen Ba Duong, Ngo Xuan Toan, and Nguyen Huu Son. The fact that Quang Nam were managed by former Sai Gon head coach Nguyen Thanh Cong enabled them to lure the former Sai Gon players to the Tam Ky Stadium, where they will be joined by last season’s stalwarts Dinh Thanh Trung and Ha Minh Tuan, with the duo being retained for the upcoming 2021 V.League 2 season.
The 2021 V.League 2 season will experience an expansion from 12 teams to 14 teams, with Quang Nam replacing promoted champions Binh Dinh FC. Last season’s bottom dwellers Dong Thap FC were relegated into the 2021 Vietnamese National Second League and replacing the Mekong Delta-based team are Phu Tho FC from Phu Tho Province, Hanoi’s very own Phu Dong FC who were returning after a brief stint in the third tier, and Ho Chi Minh City’s third club Gia Dinh FC, with both Phu Tho and Gia Dinh making their debuts in the Vietnamese second tier.