Singapore's Ilhan Fandi completes transfer to Belgian second division club KMSK Deinze
Albirex has also entered into a partnership with Deinze, which is owned by Singapore-based firm ACA Football Partners.
SINGAPORE: Singapore footballer Ilhan Fandi has completed his transfer to Belgian second division club KMSK Deinze from Albirex Niigata Singapore, both clubs announced on Monday (Dec 12).
He will join the Belgian side from January next year, Deinze said.
The third son of Singapore football legend Fandi Ahmad, Ilhan was last month crowned the AIA Young Player of the Year at the Football Association of Singapore Awards Night.
He also clinched the Goal of the Year award and was named in the Singapore Premier League (SPL) Team of the Year.
Ilhan, 20, joined Albirex from the Young Lions in April this year. In the most recent campaign, he scored 17 league goals as Albirex won the title. The young forward has four caps for Singapore.
On the transfer, Ilhan said: "I’m very blessed and thankful for the interest Deinze showed in me and the ambitions they had for me and I’m grateful for the opportunity they have given me and I’ll give my best for the team.
"I’m really excited about the opportunity and I can’t wait to get started in Belgium.”
He also thanked Albirex for making his time at the club an "enjoyable one".
Deinze is owned by Singapore-based firm ACA Football Partners. They are currently eighth in the 12-team Belgian second division, after finishing fourth last season. The club is based in the East Flanders region.
Albirex also announced a new partnership with Deinze that includes exchange training for academy players and the development of a network of scouting teams.
CEO of ACA Football Partners Hiroyuki Ono said: "We are pleased to welcome Ilhan, a promising star of Singaporean football, to KMSK Deinze and to be working together with Albirex Niigata FC Singapore.
"Football is very popular in Singapore, and we feel that this partnership with Deinze will provide an opportunity for Asian players to gain new experiences.
"We are looking forward to seeing Ilhan's success as well as the development of measures to connect Europe and Asia, including collaboration between the academies."
Speaking about the partnership, Albirex Singapore chairman Daisuke Korenaga said Ilhan's transfer "has the potential to be a major turning point in Singaporean football".
Referencing the Japan team that played in the World Cup, he said those players' experience in Europe was a big factor in the Samurai Blue reaching the knockout stage.
"Similarly, the number of Singaporean players playing in Europe is expected to increase, which will improve the level of Singapore's national football team," he added.
"I feel that this partnership will promote exchanges between Singapore and Europe and provide a concrete career path for the young players who will play football in Singapore in the future. We look forward to making Singapore football even more competitive."
Ilhan's two older brothers, Irfan and Ikhsan, are also playing overseas and are currently with Thai side BG Pathum United.