The signing of Vietnamese striker Nguyen Cong Phuong to Mito Hollyhock could be the beginning of a shift towards a new model for J.League clubs looking to expand into Southeast Asia.
The 20-year-old known as the “Vietnamese Messi” will join the MEIJI YASUDA J2 League side on a one-season loan from HAGL FC. His arrival is the latest development in efforts by Ibaraki prefecture, where Mito is located, to foster closer ties with Vietnam.
With increased merchandise and advertising sales expected, Hollyhock hope that Cong Phuong’s play can boost club revenues that have stagnated at roughly 500 million yen ($4.2 million) – the lowest amongst J2 sides.
“I believe that the ‘Mito Model’ will guide J.League clubs to establishing business relationships in Southeast Asia,” club president Kunio Numata told the newspaper. “Through [Cong Phuong’s] acquisition, we expect to develop various business opportunities.”
In March of 2015, the prefecture signed a memorandum of understanding with Vietnam regarding the mutual development of agricultural industries, with governor Masaru Hashimoto visiting the country in October.
Should Cong Phuong excel on the pitch, officials expect an increase in tourists from Vietnam to Mito and surrounding areas.
“By raising the profiles of Mito and Ibaraki in Vietnam, we can contribute to the region,” Numata added. “We want to continue to invest our strength into Southeast Asia.”