Malaysia Super League players not tempted by lower pay in Thailand
Despite Thailand becoming the destination of choice for some of Southeast Asia's finest talents, Malaysian players are reportedly rejecting opportunities, due to the insufficient salaries on offer.
The Thai League is undoubtedly the strongest in the region as Muang Thong United's journey to the last 16 of the 2017 AFC Champions League demonstrated.
This year sees the Thai League open a dedicated squad place for a player from an ASEAN country. The new policy has seen the likes of Singapore's Hassan Sunny and Zulfahmi Arifin, Myanmar's Aung Thu and Kyaw Ko Ko, and Vietnam's Hoang Vu Samson snapped up by Thai clubs.
However, Malaysians are conspicuous by their absence, leading to question marks about the ambitions of players in the country, compared to their Singapore, Myanmar and Vietnamese rivals.
However, MVP Sports Agency Talent Director Hafizan Halim insists that there has been interest from Thai clubs in players from Malaysia, but the salaries are not attractive enough to tempt them to move north.
Hafizan suggests that Thai clubs generally offer salaries ranging from US$3,000 to US$5,000 per month, figures which are not competitive enough to engage Malaysia's brightest talents.
"There have been several offers from Thai clubs for Malaysian players, especially for those who played in the Southeast Asia (SEA) Games, but the offers don't meet their expectations," Hafizan told The New Straits Times.
"It's not a question of Malaysian players being choosy, but the thing is they can get much better pay from the local teams.
"So, I'd like to deny the claims that our players have no quality or are not keen to play outside. They do not want to because of factors such as this.
"I think many people don't understand this. For example, if you are offered work overseas, but at the same time, you are earning more in Malaysia, of course you would choose to stay in your own country."
Malaysia's under-22 side were runners-up to Thailand in the 2017 SEA Games and the under-23 squad have a chance to impress when they begin their AFC U23 Championship campaign against Iraq on Jan. 10.
It remains to be seen if strong performances in the continental competition might persuade Thai clubs to loosen the purse strings enough to make Malaysian players an offer attractive enough to leave their home country.
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