Shocking signings? Five big name players once linked to Malaysia

With the likes of Tony Cottee, Pablo Aimar and Dani Guiza having played in the Malaysia Super League (MSL), local clubs have not shied away from courting some big names.  FFT looks back at some of the other famous stars that almost made it to Malaysian shores.

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It may difficult to comprehend that Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) once turned down an opportunity to sign this former Barcelona and Chelsea star because of his age (and surprisingly, salary demands) in 2014 considering they went on to re-sign a 36-year-old Luciano Figueroa in November 2017.

Yet that is exactly what happened.

In August 2014, JDT owner Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim revealed that the club had talks with a then 33-year-old Eto'o but decided against it because it was not “in line with the new policy of signing younger players.”

The former Cameroonian international moved to Everton for the 2014-15 season but left in January for Italian side Sampdoria, where he remained until the end of the season before joining Turkish club Antalyaspor on a three-year contract in June 2015.


Terengganu were offered the services of Essien when they were a MSL club in 2016 but salary demands proved to be the biggest stumbling block.

Essien was reportedly demanding 35,000 Euros (RM166,000) at the time and Terengganu simply could not afford it, claiming it far exceeded their budget.

The double Premier League and Ligue 1 winner remained with Panathinaikos in Greece but did not get much playing time and was released ahead of the 2016-17 campaign. He joined Indonesian side Persib Bandung in March 2017 - the club former JDT coach Mario Gomez will take charge of next season.

Among the personal accolades Essien has achieved during his career include Ligue 1 player of the year, Ghana player of the year, CAF team of the year (four times), African Cup of Nations team of the tournament and Chelsea player of the year.


Three years after playing for Chelsea in an exhibition match against Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur in 2011, Anelka’s agent tried to get him playing there permanently – twice!

T-Team had talks with the 1999-2000 Champions League winner's agent to join the Terengganu-based club in the 2014 mid-season window but his wages were too high. Salary demands were again the issue in 2015 after reportedly demanding US1million (then RM3.2million) for a season contract to join Selangor.

He was already 35 at the time and it was probably wise for Malaysian club to decide against signing the former Arsenal, Real Madrid, PSG and Chelsea forward.

Anelka earned the Le Sulk nickname during his career for a reason and Malaysia probably won't have made him the happiest footballer.

[NEXT: Liverpool strikers in demand]