Thursday, February 15, 2018


Belencoso & Simic - A Tale Of Two Strikers

If only signing a striker was an exact science. Arguably the most important player on the field, certainly the most glamorous, football clubs around the world trawl the globe looking for the perfect forward who will provide the goals that can lead them to success and titles.

No matter how much research gets done, no matter how many You Tube videos are watched ultimately the recruitment of a striker, especially one unfamiliar to a coach and his staff, will always be a gamble and could ultimately decide the fate of the coach.

Take for example Spanish forward Juan Belencoso. After a prolific spell in Hong Kong with Kitchee which included a couple of good AFC Cup runs, he headed to Indonesia and signed for Persib who were ISL champions at the time. 

It was surely a good fit. Belencoso had done the business not just domestically but internationally and the Persib coach at the time, Dejan Antonic, would have known the striker's qualities from his expansive contacts in the HK game. What could go wrong?

Sadly the journeyman striker who had played for 11 Spanish sides before beginning his Oriental adventures bombed. The Persib camp wasn't a happy one with the team struggling for form in the ISC in 2016. Bandung may have a population of around 2.5 million but in football terms it's a village. With Persib not playing well and Antonic under fire there would be no place to hide and Belencoso bombed, soon to be released having failed to find the net in the ISC.

Contrast Belencoso's experience with Marko Simic. After a slow start in the 2017 Liga 1 season, Persija's Bruno Lopes found his shooting boots in the second half of the campaign and ended with 10 goals, a reasonable enough return in a season where his form mirrored his team's. 

However the Brazilian's contract wasn't renewed and he signed for Kelantan in Malaysia leaving Persija in need of a new focal point in the attack. In came Simic, a 30 year old Croatian who had been playing in Malaysia during the 2017 season and had found goals fairly easy to come by. 

He started the year with Premier League side Negeri Sembilan, netting nine in 19 games before being allowed to join top flight side Melaka United, where he replaced Ilija Spasojevic, and continued his fine scoring record by adding a further 12 to his personal tally.

Again we have an experienced well traveled striker with a record for scoring goals on a regular basis in Asia. Persija decided Simic was the man they wanted to replace Lopes and he signed for the Jakarta based side. Unlike Belencoso he has hit the ground running with nine goals in the pre season President Cup and with a final against Bali United this weekend who is to say he won't better Cristian Gonzales' 11 goal haul last season in the same competition.

In fact so important is Simic considered now to the Persija team, and an indication of where Indonesian football's priorities lie, that coach Teco left him out of the squad that traveled to Malaysia to face Johor Darul Ta'zim the AFC Cup so the goal getter could be fresh for the weekend's final.

To look at Simic's impact since arriving in Indonesia could be misleading and needs to be considered alongside Belencoso. Perhaps Simic benefitted from that year in Malaysia, a country with many similar cultural traits to Indonesia. Perhaps he is benefitting from being in Jakarta which is much less of a football daft city. 

Certainly club owners, seduced by the perceived glamour of that foreign centre forward scoring goals for fun, still need to be wary. The Belencoso's are still more plentiful than the Simic's. If they want the inside track on signing strikers perhaps they should keep an eye on unfancied Mitra Kukar whose record over the last couple of seasons has been pretty remarkable

2017 Marclei Santos 24 
2016 Marlon da Silva 16 

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