Football: Lions midfielder Hariss Harun wants Portugal move

Lions midfielder Hariss Harun, 26, has been a key player for club and country. Johor Darul Ta'zim know that loaning him out will hurt the club in the short term but they expect to reap benefits in the long term.
Lions midfielder Hariss Harun, 26, has been a key player for club and country. Johor Darul Ta'zim know that loaning him out will hurt the club in the short term but they expect to reap benefits in the long term.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Lions midfielder eager to test himself in Europe as JDT look to loan him out for a year

More than three years after he turned down a chance to play professional football in Portugal, Singapore midfielder Hariss Harun looks set to get a second bite at the cherry.

On Wednesday, reigning Malaysian Super League (MSL) champions Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) announced on their Facebook page that Hariss will be loaned to either a Portuguese or Japanese club.

Yesterday, JDT sporting director Alistair Edwards told The Straits Times: "At the moment it seems like Portugal is the likely destination.

"Of course, it also depends on how comfortable Hariss is with the arrangement. We've started discussing and hope to wrap things up in two weeks, or less."

In 2013, Hariss rejected an offer from Rio Ave, who play in Portugal's top-tier Primeira Liga.

While he did not reveal why talks broke down then, the 26-year-old said yesterday that he will give it everything in his tank this time.

Insisting he has no regrets from the failed move to Rio Ave, the Lions vice-captain said: "It was an opportunity but it didn't happen and I didn't dwell on it too much. I just told myself to keep working hard and keep improving with each game.

"But I'm glad this chance has come again. Europe is at a much higher level and I just want to give it a good go.

"It's going to be tough but that's how you grow. It's a different experience and there's a lot to learn."

Aside from his current spell playing across the Causeway, Hariss, who joined JDT in 2014, also got a taste of playing abroad when he went for a 10-day trial with Chinese Super League outfit Shanghai Shenhua in 2010. However, the language barrier and dietary constraints meant Hariss, then 19, struggled to impress.

But the combative midfielder is a different player now.

With one Asian Football Confederation Cup, one Asean Football Federation championship crown and four MSL titles under his belt, he has proven to be a key player for both club and country, anchoring the midfield with his sound reading of the game, strong challenges and tireless running.

Even so, Edwards believes the player will return stronger after his loan spell.

A former Australian international who played for Singapore and Johor in the Malaysian league in the 1990s, he said: "The idea is to loan Hariss for a year and have him return for the 2018 season.

"This will hurt the club in the short term, but we believe it will be good for his development and he will come back a stronger player for JDT."

Edwards added that the stint is possible because of JDT chairman Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim's connections in European football. Tunku Ismail is also the Crown Prince of Johor.

Aside from Hariss, Edwards said a young Malaysian player will also leave for a year-long stint, but declined to reveal his identity.

Hariss thanked his club for the opportunity and said: "I had a good platform. The club is well run with the backing of the Crown Prince. Everything is here to help me be the best professional I can be. All I needed to do was train and work hard every day.

"This is the life I've always wanted - to be a professional footballer playing in a full stadium. Right now I'm just looking forward to the move."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 17, 2016, with the headline 'Hariss wants Portugal move'. Print Edition | Subscribe