Chanathip Songkrasin 'inspiring' SE Asia players with J.League success
Thailand's football chief has hailed the impact that playing in the J.League has had on the country's biggest name, Chanathip Songkrasin.
The playmaker headed to Consadole Sapporo in July and has already made 11 starts in Japan's top flight in a ground-breaking stint.
The 24-year-old international has not just impressed fans at his new club, but the improvements have been noticed back home.
"Chanathip has become a better player after moving to Japan, everyone can see that," Somyot Poompanmoung, who was elected as president of the Football Associated of Thailand in 2016, told ESPN FC.
When "Messi Jay", as Chanathip is nicknamed, has returned to play for the War Elephants, Somyot has been impressed.
"He is sharper and seems to be quicker. He is playing at a higher level. Chanathip is good enough to adapt and learn from others," Somyot said.
While there have been a number of players from Southeast Asia who have moved to Japan, they have struggled for playing time. The likes of Le Cong Vinh, of Vietnam, and Indonesia's Irfan Bachdim made little impact.
Chanathip's exploits are already different.
"It is good for Thailand football to have one of our players having success in Japan. It shows that we can produce good players," Somyot said.
It also shows other players here, and in the ASEAN region that it is possible to go and play in Japan.
"I am sure we will see more players going there, and to other strong Asian nations in the future."
With the national team reaching the final round of qualification for the 2018 World Cup, the signs for Thai football are positive, according to the boss.
"We know we have a long way to go but if we have more players at a higher level, this will help us," Somyot said.
"Chanathip is not only a good player but also works hard. This is what we all have to do to help Thai football develop."
Chanathip is expected to be one of the stars at the next Asian Cup in Jan. 2019, with Thailand having already secured their spot by making to the third round of World Cup qualification.
John Duerden covers Asian football for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnnyDuerden.