Make Safuwan a Libero

Make Safuwan a Libero
LionsXII training session at Jalan Besar Stadium. Safuwan Baharudin is in the mould of the great Soh Chin Aun.

SINGAPORE - Maybe Fandi and Sundram had more lucrative deals when they were in their pomp, but Baihakki Khaizan signed one of the biggest contracts involving a Singaporean footballer when he joined Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) after last year's Malaysian Super League (MSL) campaign.

It is believed the 30-year-old inked a four-year deal worth around $1.5 million.

After three months of the 2014 MSL season, the defender is back with the LionsXII. The saga surrounding Baihakki and his position at moneybags JDT must have hurt the player.

Anyone who watched it unfold, and tracked developments right up to the announcement that he had signed for Fandi's LionsXII outfit, will realise how much more needs to be done to make club football in South-east Asia truly professional.

At least Baihakki will now be able to play top-flight football, although he would have been hit by a big pay cut.

Fandi will now have Safuwan Baharudin, Afiq Yunos, Madhu Mohana and Baihakki vying for the starting centre back roles as the team gear up for the business end of this season's MSL campaign, and the Malaysia Cup battle that will follow.

As long as Safuwan is fit and in form, I hope Fandi plays him as a central defender from now on.

Much has been made of Safuwan's versatility.

The talented footballer has a great first touch, good vision, dominates in the air and reads the game well.

He has pace, is brave, plays with his head up and drips determination.

And his best position is as a libero, a ball-playing defender who keeps opposing attackers quiet and who is also the one who begins his team's forward thrusts with an astute pass.

He needs to play in that position week in, week out and be helped by coaches like Fandi and Bernd Stange to realise his full potential.

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