Arthur Irawan is on course to become the first Indonesian to compete in the Spanish top flight after signing with La Liga club Espanyol.
Espanyol announced the signing of the 18-year-old striker this week on their web site without giving details other than stating that Arthur would play for the youth team.
“In an increasingly competitive football world, the search for young talent has crossed borders and training young players to become elite players of the future has become a key factor in the future of football development,” the club said in a statement.
“The latest addition to RCD Espanyol is Arthur Irawan, a young pearl of Indonesian football, a country to be discovered on a football level. The challenge now is to see how the player will adapt to the needs and style of European elite football.”
Espanyol, a Barcelona-based club currently seventh in La Liga, said Arthur had also attracted the attention of English Premier League giant Manchester United. However, the youngster’s parents insisted that he complete his high-school education first.
Arthur, who was born in Jakarta, had a brief spell last year with English amateur club Lytham Town, which plays in the West Lancashire Football League.
He was part of the selection process for the Under-23 national team during former coach Alfred Riedl’s time in charge. Despite impressing during try outs, though, Riedl said Arthur was too young to play for the country at the SEA Games.
Instead, he returned to England and went on trial with League One club Preston North End, which is also based in Lancashire.
Arthur is not the only Indonesian plying his trade for a European club. In July, three youngsters — defenders Yericho Christiantoko and Alfin Tuasalamony, and striker Yandi Sofyan Munawar — signed contracts to play for Belgian second-division club Cercle Sportif Vise.
Those three were members of Indonesia’s Under-19 squad that had been playing in Uruguay’s youth league since 2008. However, they had an in with the club after it was purchased by the Indonesian conglomerate Bakrie Group, which also owns local club Pelita Jaya, Uruguayan side Indonesia S.A.D. and the defending Australian A-League champion Brisbane Roar.
The first Indonesian to play for a European club was striker Kurniawan Dwi Julianto, who spent one season with Swiss side FC Lucerne.