An 11th-hour deal has been struck for Singapore national midfielder Hariss Harun to play in Europe for the new season.
Just when the Lions vice-captain faced the prospect of not playing competitive football this season, his Johor Darul Takzim (JDT) club finalised his move to Spain on Monday, a day before the European transfer deadline closed.
JDT officially announced the news via a Facebook post yesterday.
The 26-year-old will be on a one-year loan to Ce L'Hospitalet, a club based in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, located south-west of Barcelona.
The team lie 15th out of 20 sides in the league table of Segunda B Group Three, which is considered the third tier of Spanish football, after La Liga and La Liga 2.
Hariss, who is scheduled to fly to Spain on Sunday, told The Straits Times: "After waiting for quite a while, I'm happy to know where I'll be playing."
MUCH TO LOOK FORWARD TO
Looking at the big picture, I could be playing the B teams of top outfits like Barcelona and Villarreal.
HARISS HARUN, national midfielder, on the challenge that awaits him in Spain.
While he will become the first Singaporean footballer to play professionally in Spain, doubts remain over how much he will improve while playing for an obscure, lower-division club such as Ce L'Hospitalet.
Both JDT and Hariss are optimistic that the stint will be fruitful. Hariss said: "Looking at the big picture, I could be playing the B teams of top outfits like Barcelona and Villarreal.
"I believe that the matches in Spain will be of a higher standard than those in Malaysia."
JDT sports director Alistair Edwards revealed that Spain was chosen ahead of other interested clubs in Portugal, Australia and Thailand.
Edwards said: "We have aspirations of doing well in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League.
"So we need someone like Hariss who gets to learn from playing in Europe, which will enhance his development."
Hariss will join a rare breed of Lions who have played professionally outside Asia, such as former stars like Fandi Ahmad and V. Sundramoorthy. More recently, Safuwan Baharudin played for A-League team Melbourne City in a two-month stint in 2015.
Sundram, who is the national caretaker coach, is confident that Hariss' attitude and work rate will ensure that he gets the maximum benefits out of his spell.
He said: "Knowing that he puts 100 per cent into everything, I think that he will use this opportunity for bigger things. It's rare for a Singaporean player to make it to play in Europe, so it's a good thing for him and for Singapore football."
From the national team's viewpoint, Sundram added that he is looking forward to seeing how much Hariss has improved at the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers.
Singapore will open their campaign next month and will play Bahrain, Chinese Taipei and Turkmenistan until next March.
Sundram said: "I'm glad his playing status has been resolved. He's a key player in the international matches, and we need him badly for the Asian Cup qualifiers."
The talk of Hariss playing overseas began last December, when JDT announced that they were intending to loan him out to either a Portuguese or Japanese club.
But because the transfer window for European countries closed on Tuesday, hopes of him heading to Europe appeared to be dim.
While Hariss will be plying his trade in a club he is unfamiliar with, the Spanish environment will not be totally foreign to him.
Less than 10km away from L'Hospitalet's base is Barcelona's famed La Masia academy.
In 2007, as a promising teenager, Hariss earned the Most Valuable Player award during a successful training stint at the academy.
Just as he did a decade ago, Hariss wants to make the most of his experience in Spain once again, and is well aware that he has to settle down quickly.
He said: "It'll not be easy to go in when the club are already in the middle of the season.
"For sure, this will be a challenge for me but I hope that this time, I will get to stay on for a longer period of time."