Thai ace Theerathon Bunmathan gets Vissel Kobe loan deal in J.League
Muang Thong United utility player Theerathon Bunmathan will become the latest Thailand international to head to Japan after sealing a one-year loan deal with J.League side Vissel Kobe where Germany star Lukas Podolksi plies his trade.
The 27-year-old joins former Bayern Munich and Arsenal striker Podolski for the 2018 season as Vissel aim to improve upon last year's ninth place finish.
"For this new challenge, I will have to prove that I have the ability to succeed in the J.League and I am delighted to have the opportunity as it is a league that I have dreamed of of playing in for a long time," Theerathon told Siam Sport.
"It is a good league, with strong defenders and some great counter attacking teams. I'm sure that I will improve during my time here and become a better player for the Thailand national team."
The 27-year-old made his name as an attacking full-back with excellent set-piece delivery at Buriram United, winning four Thai League titles at the club.
He moved to Muang Thong in 2016 and added another league winners' medal to his collection in his first season there.
He was then a key member of the Kirins' side that reached the Round of 16 in the 2017 AFC Champions League (ACL).
While he is best known as a full-back, Theerathon is often employed in midfield, with his attacking skills an asset.
He scored an excellent free-kick against Kashima Antlers in last year's ACL campaign, and his crossing and eye for a pass are key components of Muang Thong and Thailand's attacking prowess.
Playmaker Chanathip joined Consadole for the second half of the 2017 J.League campaign and soon established himself as a first-team regular and helped steer them away from relegation trouble.
With J.League clubs having a dedicated slot for players from ASEAN countries, this success encouraged more to look at the Thai League and the players who could add quality to their squads.
Teerasil has long been Thailand's outstanding striker, and Theerathon has proven himself to be one of the finest talents in the country over a number of years.
If both can replicate the impact made by Chanathip, their time in Japan will be considered a success and more J.League clubs will surely look to Thailand.
Bangkok United wing-back Jakkit Wachpirom has already extended his loan deal with J3 side FC Tokyo U23, while Bangkok Glass midfielder Chaowat Veerachat has just sealed a loan move with Cerezo Osaka U23, also in J3.
Although Japan's national side remain streets ahead of Thailand, War Elephants fans will hope that playing in the J.League will contribute not only to the improvement of the individual players, but also the national team ahead of the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup and the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.
Muang Thong fans, however, may be concerned by the loss of three of their best players ahead of the 2018 Thai League season when they attempt to regain the title they lost to Buriram last year.
Bangkok-based Paul Murphy has lived in Asia for a decade, writing for ESPN FC since 2014. He is a former Daily Express sub-editor. @PaulMurphyBKK