Football: Top-tier Portuguese club beckons for Hariss

He has shone for Singapore on the international stage and dominated battles wearing the LionsXII attire.

He has been on a training stint to Barcelona and attended a trial with Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua. Soon, Hariss Harun could fulfil his dream of playing abroad.

The New Paper understands that an agreement to send the Singapore international to a top-tier Portuguese club is beginning to take shape.

The player himself declined to reveal any details on Wednesday.

Speaking to The New Paper, Hariss, 22, said: "Things are not as clear as they can be, and until they become clearer, I want to focus my energies on the Malaysia Cup and South-east Asia (SEA) Games campaigns."

The LionsXII vice-captain has only 10 working days left before he completes his full-time National Service obligations on Aug 9.

He will then be free to sign for any club.

The Portuguese league will kick off the new season on Aug 18, which is a potential stumbling block in any deal.

But the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) has promised to do all it can - including tapping on the expertise of super-agent Jorge Mendes - to help Hariss fulfil his dream.

No distractions

"We don't want to make a statement until everything is pinned down, because we don't want to distract him from his preparations for the Malaysia Cup and the SEA Games," FAS president Zainudin Nordin told TNP on Wednesday, when asked about a possible deal to take Hariss to Portugal.

"We are working to make it happen."

Hariss became Singapore's youngest international footballer in 2007 when he came on as a substitute against North Korea at the old National Stadium aged 16 years and 217 days.

He has been touted for professional stints abroad ever since, but it has yet to come to pass.

Hariss will turn 23 in November, and some feel he is running out of time, but Zainudin said: "We don't know what clubs think, but it's safe to say that clubs will judge players on their abilities and value them that way. "We don't want to over-think things, but instead work to the best of our ability - at least that is within our control."

Hariss is reportedly on the radar of big-spending Malaysian Super League (MSL) side Johor Darul Takzim, who are also tracking his LionsXII teammate Baihakki Khaizan.

Speaking on the sidelines of the LionsXII training session at Geylang field yesterday, Hariss said: "I have to strike a balance between my development and my career as a footballer. I'm not 16 or 17 any more, I have to think about the offer and see if it's good for myself and my family before I decide to go."

Hariss got engaged last year, with a view to marry in the year ahead.

While he exhibits a maturity beyond his 22 years, the little boy who yearned to fly the Singapore flag in a foreign league is very much alive and kicking.

"It has always been my dream to play abroad, but I have to wait for the right time," he said.

TNP understands that besides Hariss, the FAS is working towards securing deals with overseas clubs for two other Singapore players.

"The FAS is always supportive, and will do whatever it can, but the final decision rests with the boys themselves," said FAS general secretary Winston Lee.

FAS president Zainudin is hopeful.

After seeing Adam Swandi join French side FC Metz, he believes talented Singaporean players are good enough to play abroad.

"We are still optimistic (of securing deals with overseas clubs for the likes of Hariss)," he said.

"If I wasn't, I wouldn't be doing this."

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