Ulisses Morais – Just who is JDT's new Portuguese coach?

Malaysia Super League (MSL) club Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) swiftly appointed Ulisses Morais as their new head coach on the same day Benjamin Mora was demoted to JDT II. FourFourTwo takes a look at the Portuguese’s past and what’s in store for the Malaysian giants.

Virtually unknown outside Portugal, Morais has made the Southern Tigers his first adventure beyond his homeland.

The 57-year-old joins the Southern Tigers after first being linked to the Malaysia national team job, which was ultimately given to his compatriot Nelo Vindaga. Morais was previously spotted in Johor Bahru in April, the same time JDT owner and Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) president Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim was looking to fill the Harimau Malaya dugout.

Morais knows very little of Malaysian football but he will have a familiar face in youngster Nazmi Faiz Mansor, who was at Beira-Mar in Portugal when Morais was coaching there back in 2012.

The once-Benfica trainee saw his stocks as a coach rise after he guided Estoril Praia to the top-flight with back-to-back promotions after winning the third tier in the 2002/03 season and the Segunda Division 12 months later.

Other Portuguese top-flight sides he has taken charge of include Famalicao, Maritimo, Beira-Mar and Academica De Coimbra.

While he worked with current Portuguese internationals Cedric Soares and Adrien Silva at Coimbra in 2011, his last outing at Famalicao ended on a sour note as he was shown the exit after only recording two wins in 11 matches.

Yet his previous tenure should matter little in Johor Bahru. Equipped with many of Malaysia's leading players, Ulisses could not have asked for a better squad.

JDT have won the last three MSL campaigns and are hot favourites to land a fourth straight title come October as they enjoy a six-point lead over Kedah and Pahang with nine matches remaining.

WHAT DOES MORAIS HAVE AHEAD?

Secure the MSL and challenge for the Malaysia Cup

It’ll be a big disappointment if JDT do not go on to win the MSL at the end of the season. For all the criticism Mora received, the Mexican still managed to obtain a six-point advantage in the title race by the time the mid-season break started.

Photo: Asiana.my

It is now left to Morais to navigate the rest of the season and ensure the club is still defending champion when he starts his first full season in 2018.

With the Sultan Ahmad Shah Cup and FA Cup lost to Kedah already, and having exited the AFC Cup, the Malaysia Cup is the only other trophy up for grabs.

JDT did not take the competition seriously in 2016 because of continental commitments and the fact it does not offer a berth into continental tournaments, unlike the FA Cup and MSL, yet pride is something JDT could strive for when the season resumes on July 1.

JDT have enough depth to field a strong side in both the MSL and Malaysia Cup campaigns.