Dion CoolsGetty

Who is Dion Cools - Meet the former Belgium Under-21 star who is eligible to represent Malaysia

First there was Junior Eldstal then along came the others like Brendan Gan, Matthew Davies and La'Vere Corbin-Ong - the heritage players or players who have direct link because of their parents to Malaysia, thus enabling them to feature and play for the Malaysia national team.

Another name that may follow a similar path could be Dion Cools, the current FC Midtjylland player in the Danish Superliga having just got transferred there from Belgian champions, Club Brugge. Goal has compiled all the things that you need to know about this 23-year-old player.

What is his background?

Dion was born in 1996 in Kuching to a Sarawakian mother and a Belgian father but moved to Europe soon after and have stayed there for the entirety of his life. His mother is a Liverpool fan and that made a big impression on a young Dion who followed suit and fell in love with football.

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Part of the Anderlecht youth team back in 2012, he moved to OH Leuven a year later before signing a professional contract with them when he turned 18 years of age in 2014. An impressive debut season for Leuven in the Second Division saw Club Brugge pick him up the following season where he has stayed for almost five seasons.

"Today is not my first day at my new job, more like the first day of a childhood dream that has come true. I'm a passionate fan of Club since I was a young kid. I didn't miss a game if I could. Since a few weeks ago it was still a dream to wear this beautiful shirt once. Today's the day and for me it's a huge honour. Look at me, side by side with all these well-known and quality players," said Dion when he signed for Brugge.

Dion Cools, Club BruggeGetty

What position does Dion Cools play?

Defence is where Dion usually plays his football and he nominally a right full back but is capable of playing on the left as well. Of course with different tactics, he has to adjust sometimes and has played further forward when required either in a wing-back role or right midfield.

What has he achieved in football?

Brugge is where Dion has played the bulk of his professional career thus far and that is where he had the most success as well. In fact the success came immediately in his debut season as Brugge went on to lift the 2015/16 Belgian First Division title, a feat they managed to repeat the following season to retain the title.

He also picked up two Supercup (2016 and 2018) trophies along the way, a match featuring the winners of the league title and the Belgian Cup. While he started on the bench in the second one Dion was a starter in the 2016 one where Brugge defeated Standard Liege 2-1 to lift the cup.

Can Dion Cools play for Malaysia?

When he was still eligible, Dion was a regular part of the Belgium Under-21 side as well as featuring for their younger age-groups which is the Under-19 and Under-18. However he has yet to play for the senior Belgium team who as everyone know are a very competitive and one of the strongest squads in Europe these days.

With him being born in Malaysia, it does mean that he qualifies to play for Harimau Malaya immediately should Tan Cheng Hoe decides to add him to the squad. However while there has been initial discussions with Dion on the possibility of him linking up with the Malaysia national team, there hasn't been a concrete invitation yet for him to do so.

Dion Cools, Club Brugge

Do Malaysia NT need him?

While there are obvious choices currently in Cheng Hoe's squad, it would be very difficult to say that the team doesn't need a player who has European pedigree and has played in the UEFA Champions League competition before. Someone who is still very young, getting Dion in the team would represent a long career in the side, fitness permitting.

On the right currently Matthew Davies and Syahmi Safari has been the options for Cheng Hoe and if Dion is added to the mix, it would only mean higher competition for places and that can only be seen as a good thing. Given his height of over 6ft, Dion could only be cast into the centre back role despite that not being his usual position.

What about the links to JDT?

It is no secret that Malaysia Super League champions Johor Darul Ta'zim has been keeping a close watch on the progression of Dion and the owner of JDT, HRH Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim had admitted to have met up with Dion to get to know him and understand how he sees his future.

Ironically that is where Davies currently plays his club football and the signing of the former Pahang captain does mean that at the moment, JDT are not in a dire need for someone who plays as a right back. However the admiration for the player is real and Tunku Ismail remains fairly confident that if Dion decides to up stakes and head for Asia, the Southern Tigers will be the only destination for him.

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