Fresh off winning the 2020 AFF Championship with Thailand and being crowned as the tournament’s best player, Chanathip Songkrasin – arguably the best Southeast Asian player right now – landed himself a huge move, swapping Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo for Kawasaki Frontale as the winger joined the reigning J1 champions for a sizeable fee.
Former BEC Tero Sasana and Muangthong United winger Chanathip had been a trailblazer of sorts for Southeast Asian players, with the pocket rocket having shown the world that players from Southeast Asia can indeed thrive in higher levels of competition, such as the J1 League, a league that has been touted as being one of the best in Asia.
Chanathip’s success with Consadole – with whom he had initially joined on loan from Muangthong – inspired clubs from other regions to look towards Southeast Asian talent. The likes of Theerathon Bunmathan, Thitiphan Puangchan, Sittichok Paso, Hadi Fayyadh, Anders Aplin, and Dang Van Lam had joined Japanese clubs with mixed successes since Chanathip’s arrival in Sapporo back in 2017, while the likes of Asnawi Mangkualam and Sasalak Haiprakhon were snapped up by South Korean clubs, albeit with the latter being only on a loan deal. Last but not least, the likes of Egy Maulana Vikri, Witan Sulaeman, and Luqman Hakim had broken their way into European football.
In his four years with Consadole, Chanathip had scored 15 goals and created 22 assists from 123 appearances, cementing himself in the club’s folklore as a result. This inevitably attracted the attention of bigger fishes and Kawasaki, the kingpin of J1 football in recent times, were the ones who managed to entice Chanathip away from Consadole.
It was reported that Kawasaki had to shell out around Є3.5 million for Chanathip’s services, the highest domestic transfer fee ever paid in J1 history.
With Kaoru Mitoma now gone to Brighton & Hove Albion, Kawasaki felt that Chanathip would do well to succeed the talismanic young talent in Toru Oniki’s starting lineup. Operating down the wings, the Thai international would hopefully provide some excellent balls to Leandro Damiao up front, or even tear opposition defenses to pieces by himself.
“I’m grateful for this opportunity to play with a team of Kawasaki Frontale’s stature,” Chanathip said as quoted from Goal Indonesia, “I want to make good use of this opportunity that I have and do my best to contribute for the team both on and off the pitch.”
By joining Kawasaki, Chanathip had also given himself an opportunity to play in the AFC Champions League, Asia’s premier club competition. With all of his mercurial talent, Chanathip’s last bow in the ACL happened back in 2017, while he was still at Muangthong. Chanathip’s move to Kawasaki would give him another shot to impress in the highest stage of Asian club football, just as he did in both the J1 or with his national team.