Malaysia Cup: Safuwan set to leave

SINGAPORE - Deployed as a centre forward in the last 15 minutes of the LionsXII's 1-0 defeat by Perak in Ipoh on Tuesday, Safuwan Baharudin showed that he could well be one of the most complete footballers in the Singapore bullpen.

Strong in the air and comfortable on the ball, the 21-year-old defender comes with a healthy dollop of guile and gumption.

But his is a package the LionsXII may well have to do without next year.

"There are already two genuine offers on the table for Safuwan from Malaysian teams, with interest also being shown by a Thai and an Indonesian side," said Offside Sports Management and Consultant director, Abdul Halim, agent of the former Singapore Sports School student.

"Safuwan has yet to meet representatives from the two interested parties, whose identities I cannot reveal, because talks are still ongoing."

With coach V Sundramoorthy set to leave at the end of the Malaysia Cup campaign, and suitors queueing up for LionsXII stalwarts like Baihakki Khaizan, skipper Shahril Ishak, and vice-captain Hariss Harun, the Singapore side look set for a massive clear-out before the turn of the year.

The New Paper understands that the Football Association of Singapore is keen to retain up to eight senior players for next season, but sources suggest that contract talks have yet to begin.

Sundram's charges are staring at an early exit from the Malaysia Cup, after registering a solitary point from three Group D games. They need a minor miracle, starting with Saturday's home tie against Perak, to see them survive the group.

Despite the overseas interest, Safuwan is focused on the job at hand. "Several (Malaysian) teams have several of our LionsXII players on their radars, and it is almost confirmed that a few of (my LionsXII teammates) will leave," said Safuwan, declining to reveal details.

"But we can't let all this transfer talk distract us from our job - getting a win (Saturday).

"Even if anyone has already decided to leave, he'll definitely want to leave on a good note, by winning the Malaysia Cup." Johor Darul Takzim have reportedly made moves for both Baihakki and Hariss.

It is time

The former, who has formed with Safuwan what is widely believed to be the best central defensive pairing in the region, believes that the time has come for his young teammate to leave Singapore shores.

"Safuwan is a good player, and I think he is at an age where he should venture abroad," said Baihakki who joined Indonesia's Persija Jakarta as a 25-year-old in 2009.

"But I will have to wait and see before I decide on my future."

Abdul Halim, who also represents LionsXII captain Shahril, believes the forward is ready to consider his future.

He said: "Shahril is not getting any younger, and if a good opportunity comes along, he has said that he will consider it seriously."

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