Hitmen Lee, Zerka renew contracts

SINGAPORE - THEY came with big reputations as marquee footballers, delivered and will be back in the S-League for a second season. Home United and Tanjong Pagar United have confirmed that their respective star signings Lee Kwan Woo and Monsef Zerka have renewed contracts and will return to terrorise more defences this campaign.

South Korean playmaker Lee, who was named Player of the Year last season, told The Straits Times: "I have really enjoyed myself in the S-League and I like the lifestyle in Singapore.

"I have stayed because I want to pursue more glory for the club."

"We are in the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Cup this year and I hope the team can go far in the tournament." Similarly, the Tanjong Pagar management are delighted to see Zerka, the former Morocco international, back when he touched down late last night.

Jaguars coach Patrick Vallee said: "I am very happy to have Monsef back. He did what was expected of him last season and he helped the team win many matches. He is a player who adds a lot of value to the team."

Jaguars general manager Richard Woon added of the Moroccan striker: "Monsef did very well last season and he is very popular with the fans.

"Although he is signed under the Marquee Player scheme and his salary is more than $10,000, it was a reasonable sum to pay." A player recruited under the S-League's marquee-player system will not be restricted by the competition's $10,000 monthly salary cap.

Although Lee and Zerka will be 36 and 33 respectively this year, both impressed in their debut season, each scoring 12 goals. Lee's playmaking skills, which saw him win 13 caps for South Korea, propelled Home to victory in the RHB Singapore Cup and second place in the S-League.

Zerka's lethal left foot helped plunder the goals that pushed the once-struggling Jaguars to a respectable sixth in the table. Not all S-League clubs enjoyed success with their star footballers.

Ex-Japan international defensive midfielder Kazuki Toda, the S-League's highest-paid player ever with a reported monthly salary of $20,000, failed to make an impression at Warriors FC and announced his retirement when the season ended.

Tampines Rovers released midfielder Martin Wagner in June after the Argentinian started just six matches. He has since joined top division side Argentinos Juniors back home.

Meanwhile, Brunei's DPMM, coached by ex-Blackburn Rovers manager Steve Kean, is another team who want to secure a marquee signing before the new season starts next month.

After trials for former England strikers Francis Jeffers and Darius Vassell came to nought, the Bruneians have set their sights on another former English Premier League hitman, Roy O'Donovan.

The Irishman played 17 league games for Sunderland between 2007 and 2010 without getting on the scoresheet. But that has not deterred DPMM from seeking his signature.

Club manager Waslimin Momin said: "No deal has been signed with O'Donovan yet but we are hopeful we can come to an agreement. "O'Donovan will be a marquee signing for us and he will strengthen the team. That will help us to reach our target of a top-three finish in the league and to win the RHB Singapore Cup."