Chanathip Songkrasin determined to win silverware with Kawasaki Frontale after AFC Champions League exit

There were a variety of reasons that came into play when Chanathip Songkrasin decided to join Kawasaki Frontale at the start of this year.

The biggest of them all? The simple goal of tasting success in the form of trophies.

After five years of being adored at Consadole Sapporo, where he became the first Thai to play in the top tier of Japanese football, Chanathip's move to Frontale saw him make more history as he became the most expensive transfer of all time between two J.League clubs for a reported US$3.8 million.

- Sailors can reflect on ACL debut with pride but must be back
- Johor Darul Ta'zim's classic case of "if at first you don't succeed..."
- Osaki's story of overcoming rejection to being among Asia's best

Champions of the J1 League in four of the past five seasons, Frontale have made a decent start to 2022 on the domestic front -- lying five points behind leaders Kashima Antlers in second spot with a game in hand -- even if they have not been as dominant as in previous years.

On the continental stage however, they recently suffered the ignominy of a group-stage exit in the AFC Champions League -- a tournament in which they have never gone further than the quarterfinals in nine attempts -- after finishing second in Group I behind Johor Darul Ta'zim and missing out on the Round of 16 as one of the best runners-up.

For Chanathip, there were some positives to focus as he netted twice in his first appearance in Asia's premier club competition in six years, which would have come as a confidence boost for any player slowly trying to find their feet after a big move.

"Firstly, I think my performance was good -- better than when I first came to Kawasaki," Chanathip told ESPN in an exclusive interview -- also his first to be conducted in English, after he spent six months during the coronavirus lockdown period intensely learning the language.

"I didn't think too much about the (opposition) teams or any of the fans, but I just thought a lot about myself and how I want to show what I'm good at, and play to way I like to play.

"It allowed me to believe I can play at a club like Kawasaki, and I could also earn the confidence of the coach and my teammates when I start to score goals or assist.

"But of course, I'm disappointed about the results and how we couldn't get into the next round. It doesn't matter if I play well because if the team doesn't go through, it means nothing."

The discontent of an early exit from the ACL has also only strengthened the nifty playmaker's desire to taste success eventually.

"I came here to be a champion. I want to play more like a big player - small guy, but big player," explained the 28-year-old, who has never allowed his diminutive 1.59-metre frame be a hindrance to performing at the highest level.

"This is just the start. It's normal for any player in the world to have to take time (after a move).

"When I knew I would be joining Kawasaki, it was very exciting but I also knew it would be a challenge with everything being new... teammates, club, translator -- everything.

"Of course, I miss Consadole because I stayed there for five years and felt so much warmth, but life moves on and so have I to a new challenge.

"Moving from Consadole, who weren't a small team but a mid-level team, to Kawasaki is difficult because it's a big change. The only target (at Frontale) is to be champions.

"That's why there is a lot of pressure but the pressure will always be there."

And as Chanathip now finds himself surrounded by some stellar names, he is also ready to take his game to the next level as he approaches the peak of his powers.

"Now I play with (Leandro) Damiao, Yu Kobayashi, (Akihiro) Ienaga -- this team has so much quality," he added.

"Even in Consadole, having come from Thailand, everyone I played with was so good for my development and that's why I improved because the environment is important.

"In Japan, everyone plays high quality, with high intensity and attitude. Since I first arrived here, everyone has made me improve a lot because the environment was better than me."