Malaysian Super League: They're on Fandi's wanted list

Having made his name as one of the most feared forwards in the region, newly-appointed LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad knows the importance of having a strong strikeforce.

With just one proven goalscorer in Khairul Amri on the roster, backed up by the young but promising trio of Shahfiq Ghani, Syafiq Zainal and Khairul Nizam, Fandi is in urgent need of some attacking reinforcements ahead of the football season in Malaysia next month.

"We need to increase up our attacking options if we want to meet the target of a top-three finish," said the 51-year-old.

"Amri and Shahfiq are good forwards but we can't just rely on them. We also need Nizam and Syafiq to step up and score more.

"It's not easy for us because we don't have foreign signings, so it would be good if I can find one or two more seasoned strikers.

"We'll need these reinforcements, but we can't sign too many senior players because, ultimately, the LionsXII are still a development team."

The LionsXII are the reigning Malaysian Super League (MSL) champions and open their 2014 campaign in a Charity Shield clash against Pahang on Jan 17.

Fandi is hoping to sign national forwards Qiu Li and Fazrul Nawaz, two strikers he worked with in 2006 when he was the Young Lions coach.

It is understood Qiu Li is not keen to continue playing for Balestier Khalsa after the 32-year-old was offered a pay cut despite a fine season with the Tigers, scoring 12 goals as they won the League Cup and finished fourth in the S-League.

Fazrul was with the LionsXII and scored five league goals in this year's successful MSL campaign, but he suffered a sickening fractured skull after being kicked in the head in a Malaysia Cup encounter in October and the 28-year-old will be out of contract after his one-year deal runs out at the end of the month.

Said Fandi: "Yes, we know the players well and we are checking on their availability.

"I know how to work with Qiu Li. Technically, he is one of the best footballers in the country. What's important is he works hard on his fitness with more discipline.

"Fazrul is also a good, experienced forward, but we want to make sure he is fully recovered."

Both Qiu Li and Fazrul are also keen to reunite with their former coach and mentor.

Qiu Li, who is in China to hold his belated wedding banquet - will be back in Singapore next week - told TNP: "I'd be honoured to play for the LionsXII and Fandi.

"It would be sad to leave Balestier because I really enjoyed playing for such a united team.

IMPRESSED

"But I was really impressed with how the young LionsXII team held their own and won the MSL last season, and it would be a good new challenge for me."

Fazrul has already started light training and is expecting to be cleared for full training next month.

"I'll be happy to stay with the LionsXII and I'm really looking forward to teaming up with Amri and working with Fandi again," he said.

As of now, Fandi has around 20 players in his squad and more than half are in Myanmar for the SEA Games.

His immediate priority is to beef up the squad, considering how the LionsXII used around 30 players each season over the last two years because of the players' National Service commitments.

Also understood to be on Fandi's radar are former Courts Young Lions boys Ignatius Ang, Samuel Benjamin, Eddie Chang and Emmeric Ong.

"I'm going to get straight down to work because there's not much time" said Fandi

"Most of our players are at the SEA Games and I hope they go all the way.

"That will leave us with about three weeks before the MSL kicks off. If we work hard together, I believe we can be successful again."


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