SINGAPORE - Wearing a stylish cardigan over a chequered shirt buttoned all the way up to the top, Adam Swandi looked the part when he jetted off to France in February last year.
A top talent in Singapore's youth ranks, Adam joined French third division outfit FC Metz on a two-year contract secured by the Football Association of Singapore.
But all is not well with the player.
The Singapore starlet is struggling to get playing time in France, and it is a situation that has got the attention of national coach Bernd Stange.
The German will make a trip to Metz next month to have a first-hand look and, in the worst case scenario, he will bring Adam back to Singapore and play him either in Fandi Ahmad's LionsXII, or the Courts Young Lions.
Speaking to The New Paper, Stange said: "He is still physically too weak to make his mark in France, and we have to take care of him. We don't want a situation where people say that Adam failed in France, but there is a possibility that if it's too difficult - for physical reasons or if Metz say that there's no way for him - then we will bring him back here. But that will be the last option."
The German made Adam the third youngest Singaporean to pull on the national team jersey - behind Hariss Harun (16 years, 217 days) and Fandi (17 years, 116 days) - when he threw Adam on as a second-half substitute in the 2-0 friendly win over Myanmar in June last year, aged 17 years and 143 days.
Today, he already has four senior caps.
Stange is in touch with the staff of the Metz academy on a monthly basis, and has sent them match reports and physical assessment reports of Adam done here.
But he concedes that Adam's lack of game-time in France will make it difficult for him to call up the intelligent young forward for the national team.
"He is 18 and in the Metz Under-21 team, but his coach needs to win matches, and him getting five minutes of playing time isn't enough. Adam's not quite happy because the boys there - from Algeria and Morocco - are too strong for him, and he can't play in games," Stange said.
"He deserves to be in the national team because he is one of our shining stars, but I cannot invite him into the team if he isn't playing for his club."
Adam took the nation by storm in the Canon Lion City Cup in 2011, leading the National Football Academy Under-15 side to a third-placed finish.
He joined the Young Lions for 10 days during their month-long training stint in Turkey in January, but it was difficult to assess his progress.
Said Stange: "It's difficult to see his progress because he's so far away, but even in Turkey, he didn't do anything for me to say that he's absolutely above all (our) players and that he deserves a place in the national team."
Before any big decisions are made, Stange will travel to Metz, and also discuss the situation with Adam's family.
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