Believe the hype but be patient with Egy Maulana

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Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

FOX Sports Asia Football Editor Gabriel Tan believes there is a bright future for the newest Indonesian wonderkid but past examples have shown he should be handled with care.

It is the name on the lips of every one related with Indonesian football at the moment – a certain Egy Maulana Vikri – and for good reason too.

For a proud footballing nation who has been plagued with infighting, rival football associations, allegations of poor player welfare and a FIFA ban in recent years, Egy Maulana is just one of many reasons that Garuda fans are now smiling.

Obviously, the national team’s run to last year’s ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup final, where they played an exciting brand of football and only lost out to heavyweights Thailand, was a big cause for renewed optimism.

There was also the Under-23s producing some impressive displays at August’s Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, reaching the semi-finals before being eliminated by hosts Malaysia.

CORRECTION: This video on 21/09/17 had wrongly listed Espanyol B as Egy’s current club

Then, of course, came along Egy Maulana and his fellow fledglings at the AFF Under-18 Youth Championship.

Beating Myanmar and racking up big wins over Philippines and Brunei Darussalam along the way, they finished top of Group B and only missed out on a place in the final after losing to the Thais in the dreaded penalty shootout.

Many of Indra Sjafri’s young charges showed plenty of promise but none more so than Egy Maulana.

Coming on the back of an equally exciting performance at the Toulon Tournament, where he played against the likes of Brazil, Czech Republic and Scotland, and was named the competition’s “Breakthrough Player”, the 17-year-old has since been tipped for Europe.

Espanyol has been mooted as a possible destination given their history with Evan Dimas and Arthur Irawan, while a move to Inter Milan could be easier to facilitate with the presence of Indonesian chairman Erick Thohir.

Regardless of where Egy Maulana, who is still a student at Sekolah Ragunan in the south of Jakarta, ends up learning his trade in the next few years, it is important that Indonesia’s passionate fans be patient with him.

Too often, not just in Southeast Asia but all over the world, outstanding prospects have failed to fulfill their potential purely from the burden of hype and expectations.

Malaysia’s Nazmi Faiz is just one of many recent examples of a youngster who had the world at his feet when he moved to the Portuguese top flight with Beira Mar, only for his European stint to fizzle out without much of an impression.

The advantage that Egy Maulana has is his position.

Unlike Singapore’s Hariss Harun or compatriot Evan, who were both arguably talented enough to play in Europe but for the fact that it was not as difficult to find a local to perform in their central midfield role, Egy Maulana has genuine match-winning traits akin to Thai wizard Chanathip Songkrasin.

Chanathip is another good example having long been tipped for a move overseas but having only accomplished it earlier this year at what must seem like a “ripe, old age” of 23, and not to Europe but Japan’s J1 League at that.

The benefit of him biding his time is he has now embarked on a journey that he is fully equipped for, and who knows what one or two successful seasons in one of Asia’s premier leagues could be a platform to.

Even if Egy Maulana does get snapped up by a European club and does not succeed, it should not be viewed as a failure or disaster either. Just look at Lee Seung-woo, who was groomed at Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy and was even anointed “the Korean Messi”.

At the age of 19, he has since departed from Catalonia without playing a single game for Barca, but is now plying his trade in Serie A and has made a promising start to life at Verona.

Whether Egy Maulana ends up following in the path of Lee, Chanathip, Evan or even Nazmi, only time will tell.

Nonetheless, it is crucial that he is given time to develop and is not deemed as having failed to reach his potential, even if his next move is not the final destination where he ultimately comes good.