2015 MSL transfer season: The good, the bad, and the ugly
The months between the end of the Malaysia Cup and start of a new year are often the busiest for Malaysian clubs as the transfer window opens, so often prompting knee-jerk reactions and wholesale changes. Misfiring striker? Off to the shops we go. Ageing defender? It’s the glue factory for you. Talented young midfielder? Please, don’t go, Junior, we’ll match whatev-oh, that’s what they’re offering? All the best, mate.
However, credit where credit's due. Some teams have done swimmingly, making the kind of signings that would make Ronald Koeman beam mischievously, while others have already resigned themselves to being relegation battlers before the season has begun. As for JDT, well, they continued to JDT their way through the window. Let’s begin.
On paper, Terengganu arguably pulled off the transfer coup of 2015, picking up 2014 Super League golden boot winner Paulo Rangel on a two-year deal following an apparent contract dispute with his former club, Selangor. The scorer of 16 goals in just 19 matches last season turned Turtle and seems to have settled in well, notably already scoring a first-half hat-trick in a January friendly against the LionsXII.
Other teams have addressed their team issues with some astute signings. Super League champions JDT have necessarily added more depth (what with a potential trophy quest on four fronts) to what is an already cavernous talent pool by continuing their yearly acquisition of Malaysian national team stalwarts. Farizal Marlias and S. Kunanlan joined from Selangor while Junior Eldstal and Gary Steven Robbat (whose arrival will be a tad delayed, more on that later) were added to the arrivals of S. Chanturu as well as Amer Saidin and Fandi Othman from the Harimau Muda A.
Kelantan took a leaf out of Felda United’s book and addressed that gaping hole in the centre of their defence by picking up one of the most experienced defenders in the country, Norhafiz Zamani Misbah. Norfarhan Muhammad has returned to the team as the highest-scoring Malaysian in the MSL last season (seven goals), whereas Isaac Pupo and Emmanuel Kenmogne have arrived after good spells with Persebaya Surabaya in the Indonesian Super League, and so should, in theory, be accustomed to the practices and climate of the M-League. Meanwhile, Wan Zack Haikal has returned from a long-term injury (cue ‘having a new signing’ remark).
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Domestic cup gurus Pahang are currently a welcome example of consistency, having retained all four of their foreign players from last season, bucking the trend of Super League clubs that overhaul their quota of imports every time the transfer window bursts open (twice a year). In fact, Matias Conti and Damion Stewart are entering their third year with the Elephants, while Zesh Rehman and Dickson Nwakaeme stuck around for their second. Granted, consistent performances at the highest level do help their cause, but it’s still a breath of fresh air.
Pahang’s Charity Cup conquerors JDT are the only other side to maintain their foreign quartet – though Marcos Antonio and Jorge Pereyra Diaz were April 2014 additions. Special mention as well for Felda United, who retained the services of their excellent attacking trio of Edward Wilson, Ndumba Makeche, and Zah Rahan Krangar for their return to the top-flight.
As far as goals are concerned, Perak have not done too badly themselves, snagging two-thirds of PDRM’s deadly forward trident in Bobby Gonzales and Brazilian Charles Chad Souza (they scored 24 Premier League goals between them last season) as well as Kedah’s feel-good forward, Woong Namkoong, to form a formidable attacking trio of their own. At the other end of the pitch, new signings Azizon Abdul Kadir and Zamir Selamat will tussle for the number one jersey.
Fellow 2014 basement dwellers ATM have also rang in the changes, plumping for some familiar names, both foreign and local. Obinna Nwaneri (ex-Kelantan), Mario Karlovic (ex-Terengganu), and Abdulafees Abdulsalam (ex-Perak) all have at least half a season’s experience in the M-League’s balmy climate and proven that they’re capable of performing here; while Norshahrul Idlan Talaha will attempt to start afresh after failing to cement a first-team spot at JDT. Their most high-profile transfer, though, has to be former Honduras striker Jerry Palacios, who played in three World Cup matches (two in 2010 and one in 2014).