After two trophy-less seasons, Thailand’s most successful club are back with a vengeance and eager to reassert themselves. Consecutive second-place finishes is little consolation for an ownership and fanbase that have developed a rapacious appetite for success, and there is a feeling that nothing less than the big prize will be sufficient to appease.
The seven-time champions have recruited intelligently in the transfer market and kept the majority of their foreign quota unchanged for the first time in recent memory. Many of their young star players are coming of age, and experienced heads have been brought in to fill the ranks and offer the team depth that has been lacking in recent seasons. Buriram United look well poised to wrestle back the crown.
Head Coach – Alexandre Gama
Alexandre Gama has established himself as the most decorated coach in the Thai League over his seven years in the country, and he returned to where it all began midway through last season. Despite strong spells with Chiangrai, Muangthong and Thailand’s U23 national team, Gama reached his highest peaks at the Thunder Castle between 2014 and 2016, where he won two league titles and went unbeaten for the second as part of a historic quadruple.
The Brazilian tactician has clearly been bought in with the aim of winning back the title first and foremost. The uptick in results from his appointment was immediate last season, as his 17 wins from 22 games was enough to turn a disappointing campaign around and finish in a respectable second place. The players recruited by Buriram over the past two windows also perfectly suit Gama’s style – tactically flexible and physically imposing, allowing the coach to switch systems without changing the personnel on the pitch.
Key Player – Maicon (Winger/Striker, Brazil, age 31)
Buriram haven’t had a 20-goal-a-season striker since Diogo Luis Santo left for Malaysian side Johor Darul Ta’zim at the start of 2019, and have relied primarily on young Thai players to make the difference in the final third.
Both Maicon and Samuel Rosa will be vying to be the club’s top scorer, but the former narrowly gets the nod because of the pedigree he has after spending seven years in the Russian Premier League with Lokomotiv Moscow. His 8 goals and 2 assists from 15 games is an exciting start to life in Thailand, and his dribbling and link-up abilities are beginning to show themselves as he adapts to his new surroundings. Buriram need a solid golden boot competitor if they want to win the title, and Maicon looks likely to be that player.
Key Player – Peeradol Chamratsamee (Central Midfielder, Thailand, age 28)
After abstaining from signing big name local stars for a number of seasons, Buriram United broke from tradition to sign Samut Prakan City captain Peeradol Chamratsamee. It’s easy to see why – the midfielder provides a creative spark not seen at the club in years, and was only partially remedied by bringing the 33-year-old Jakkaphan Kaewprom back into the fold long after his esteemed prime. Peeradol’s composure on the ball and ability to pick a deadly final pass could transform the side from a functional one that grinds out results to one that genuinely dominates games.
Rising Star – Suphanat Mueanta (Striker, Thailand, age 19)
Given how long he’s been on the scene, it’s hard to believe that Suphanat Mueanta is still only 19 years old. Four years on from his debut, the young forward has smashed numerous records and is already making his mark for the senior national team. However, nailing down a regular starting spot in this revitalized Buriram squad, with older brother Supachok and two Brazilian strikers ahead of him, will be a new test for the teenager. Fans across the country will be watching how Thailand’s immensely talented golden boy responds this season.
Reason to Follow
By the looks of it, Buriram are building a vintage squad reminiscent of their all-conquering side from the mid-2010s, and have even put the same man back at the helm. Two trophyless seasons would have been an unimaginable prospect back then, and the Thunder Castle will be looking to strike back with a vengeance this season.