Football: Baihakki's path to LionsXII opens

Baihakki Khaizan is no more a player of Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT).

The Singapore international centre back and his Malaysian Super League (MSL) club have mutually agreed to terminate his contract so that - in accordance with the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) regulations - he will be allowed to rejoin the LionsXII, the Singapore side plying their trade north of the Causeway.

"I have spoken with my boss (Johor FA president and Crown Prince Ismail Ibrahim), and we have mutually agreed to terminate my contract with the club," a relieved Baihakki told The New Paper yesterday.

"But we have agreed that my future lies with JDT, and that I will rejoin the club at the end of the season." "I am now in negotiations with the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) to join the LionsXII," he added, again declining to reveal details. PAY CUT "I know I will have to take a pay cut but, at this point, competitive football is more important."

The 30-year-old declined to reveal the terms of termination of his $30,000-a-month four-year deal with JDT, or details of his negotiations with the FAS.

The defender was a key member of V Sundramoorthy's LionsXII side last year that went on to win the MSL title.

Fandi Ahmad, who took over the reigns of the team this season, has already expressed his wish to bolster the team's defence and sign Baihakki.

Last month, JDT de-registered Baihakki, along with Argentinian playmaker Pablo Aimar, to inject fresh foreign blood into the MSL team.

Initially, the club decided to keep the defender on their books with a view to him playing for their second-tier side, JDT II, next season.

The LionsXII moved to apply to take their former player back on loan and, in response to the application, the FAM declared that in line with league rules disallowing foreign players from swopping clubs within the same season, Baihakki had to terminate his contract with JDT before they could make an exception for the Singapore star to join his old club.

The deadline for Baihakki and the LionsXII to come to a decision is today.

If the 30-year-old does not sign with the LionsXII, he has the option of joining an S.League club when the local transfer window (June 2 to 27) opens.

"The ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup is coming up this December, and playing with the LionsXII will help me stay fit and competitive," said Baihakki.

"And with a number of national players in the LionsXII team, it will also help in our preparations to defend our ASEAN title."

Sources close to JDT revealed that preserving Baihakki's international career was one of the key reasons the Johor FA president agreed to terminate his contract, but the move to bring the former Geylang International defender back to JDT II next season remains part of the plan.

Defending S.League champions Tampines Rovers have declared their interest in Baihakki, with Home United understood to be also in the market for him.

If Baihakki joins the LionsXII, he will be able to play immediately, starting with the May 17 away fixture against Terengganu. A move to an S.League club will see him get back into action only on June 4, at the earliest - the first round of games following the opening of the transfer window on June 2.

Said Baihakki: "I would like to thank (the Johor FA president) for his understanding on the matter and for making things so easy for me."

This article was published on May 6 in The New Paper.

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