S.League 2016 champions Albirex Niigata eye Singapore talent

Albirex won their maiden S.League title after taking an unassailable 10-point lead over Tampines.

Singapore football team
Singapore talent will bring in a lot more fan following for Albirex Reuters

S League champions Albirex Niigata have revealed plans to sign football stars from Singapore in the upcoming seasons.

The satellite club of J.League side, also with the same name, clinched their maiden S.League title in their 13-year-league history after beating Hougang United 3-0 on Friday.

Albirex have been among the stronger sides in Singapore football and have been winning League Cup (2011, 2015) and the Singapore Cup in the recent past (2015). However, the S.League title had been eluding them until this season.

They came third in the league thrice - 2012, 2013 and 2015 - but pushed themselves more in 2016 to claim the top club honour in the country.

With the Community Shield and the League Cup title already in their bag, Albirex are eyeing to become the first team in the history of professional football in the Southeast Asian country to win a quadruple.

Coach Naoki Naruo is optimistic about adding the fourth this season and maintains that they will continue with the same intensity in the next two matches of the league, according to the Straits Times.

They will take on Tampines Rovers to defend the Singapore Cup on 29 October at the National Stadium before which they will also take on The Stags in the league clash.

Albirex came up with an all-round show this season. Striker Atsushi Kawata, who has been the club's leading scorer with 13 goals so far, and Tatsuro Inui, who struck 11 goals, were in imperious form throughout the league campaign as the champions netted 48 goals, the most in the league. They were also extremely disciplined at the back conceding only 16 goals.

Despite being a side filled with Japanese stars, Albirex have been able to have decent following in Singapore. However, club chairman Daisuke Korenaga conceded the White Swans have been hated by the natives on a few occasions.

Banking on the success in the ongoing season, the 41-year-old opined in favour of adding local talent to the club and maintained that Albirex wants to contribute to Singapore football.

"We are Japanese, but we want to contribute a lot more to Singapore football. Sometimes, Singaporeans don't like us [because we are a foreign team]. But we exist for Singapore," Korenaga was quoted as saying by the TODAYonline.

"We want to be the bridge between Singapore and Japan. Yes, I want to bring them to the J.League; that's the best way, I think.

"Because we need to prepare for Singaporean players' salaries and also, we need to prepare for a Prime League team. I am not sure [when this can happen] because we cannot decide it by ourselves. We will take it step by step."