Star Man: Ahmad Hazwan Bakri, Selangor

Selangor forward Ahmad Hazwan Bakri is relishing the prospect of having to fight for a starting place on the new-look team and tells FourFourTwo of his eagerness to catch Zainal Abidin Hassan’s eye.

The former Harimau Muda trainee was Selangor’s hero in the 2015 Malaysia Cup final, scoring both goals, and featured in all 22 Malaysia Super League (MSL) matches.

It’s a new coach and everyone has to fight to earn places

But he still finds himself among those who could lose first-team football in 2016.

The arrival of R. Gopinathan from Pahang brings a quality competitor for the left-wing position Hazwan filled despite it not being his natural position. Hazwan was Harimau Muda’s striker in the past and was tipped to be Malaysia’s answer to their woes in that department.

Gopinathan is a natural winger and was even sought after by league winners Johor Darul Ta’zim before the 2015 season.

Zainal stuck to a 4-4-2 formation at Pahang, meaning Hazwan could be deployed as a striker again. However, new signing Patrick Wleh has already established himself in the league and another new arrival, Mauro Olivi from Argentina, is expected to start the season ahead in the pecking order.

“It’s only good we have options. Gopinathan brings a lot of strength so that is only good for the team. Last year, when we were tired we couldn’t make many changes. Now, we can rotate,” said Hazwan.

“It’s a new coach and everyone has to fight to earn places. It’s the same every time you move or a new person comes in. I had to fight for a place when I got here in 2014 and I’ll just have to do that again… like a professional.

“It’s been good actually in training with the new players coming in. We are blending well and getting prepared for the season. I want to keep winning matches and if we do that, we’ll be in contention for trophies again.”

Hazwan scored seven goals in the MSL and only teammate Afiq Azmi had a higher count (eight) among the Malaysian strikers. Hazwan’s brace in the Malaysia Cup final against Kedah took his season tally to 12 goals.

The 24-year-old is also eager to establish himself as a starting player in the national team after breaking into the squad last year. 

Photo: Selangor FA