Southeast Asia Malaysia

JDT Confirm Podolski Interest, Announces Rodriguez and Hirose Signing

Krishna Sadhana

Football Tribe SEA Editor


Reigning Liga Super Malaysia champions Johor Darul Ta’zim have announced on their social media that they’ve received a statement of interest from a World Cup winner, with said World Cup winner being Lukas Podolski, who won the title with Germany in 2014. While rumors have gone wild in social media that JDT are closing into a World Cup winner to bolster their squad for the 2020 season, those rumors were sent into overdrive after Podolski commented “See you soon” on one of JDT’s Instagram posts.

And those rumors are pretty much confirmed by a statement made by JDT owner Tunku Ismail Idris on social media yesterday. According to SemuanyaBOLA, the former Bayern Munich and Arsenal striker, currently under contract at J.League side Vissel Kobe, is indeed joining JDT in the 2020 season.

“Yes, Podolski indeed contacted me. He has expressed his interest in joining JDT and will come to Johor Bahru for the discussion process,” said Tunku Ismail, who is also the Crown Prince of Johor, “But we have already fulfilled our foreigner quota, so this discussion may lead to another cooperation.”

Currently JDT have five foreigners within their ranks – Diogo, Leandro Velazquez, Mauricio, Gonzalo Cabrera, and Hariss Harun. The latter two occupy JDT’s Asian quota, with Singaporean Hariss occupying the ASEAN player slot and Gonzalo, who has an Iraqi passport, occupying the Asian player slot. So should Podolski decides to join JDT, either Diogo, Leandro, or Mauricio must either leave the club or be willing to be shifted down to JDT II, the club’s reserve team who are currently playing in the second-tier Liga Premier Malaysia.

Interestingly, Podolski’s current club, Vissel Kobe, are drawn in Group G of the 2020 AFC Champions League, the same group as JDT.

Liga 1 Alumnus Reinforce JDT II

Speaking about JDT II, two new foreigners have joined the reserve team for the upcoming 2020 Liga Premier season. Former Mitra Kukar and Kedah FA hitman Fernando Rodriguez and former Persela Lamongan midfield maestro Kei Hirose have been unveiled as the Southern Tigers’ newest reinforcements for the new season.

Rodriguez had a stellar 2019 season with Kedah, winning the 2019 Malaysia FA Cup with the Red Eagles along the way. The 32-year old Spaniard scored 9 goals in the 2019 Liga Super season, 3 goals in the 2019 Malaysia FA Cup, and 6 goals in the 2019 Malaysia Cup, forming a deadly partnership with Jonathan Bauman in the Kedah attack.

Hirose also had a great 2019, being the only player to have played all 34 matches of that season’s Liga 1 competition, tirelessly commanding the Persela midfield. His stamina is second to none, with fans noting that he had “three lungs,” and despite only scoring 2 goals throughout the season, the 24-year old Japanese player managed to turn himself into an important piece of the Laskar Joko Tingkir starting lineup in the 2019 season.

The two players are expected to up their already outstanding standard of playing at a club of JDT II’s stature, as the reserve club seek to bag the Liga Premier silverware in the 2020 season. They will also act as mentors for the crop of young players who will feature in the JDT II’s squad in the upcoming season, setting an example for the growing talents of Johorean football.

“They are players of high calibre and suit perfectly with our philosophy,” said JDT technical director Alistair Edwards during the two’s unveiling, “They will have huge responsibilities at JDT as they will play with the youngsters at JDT II and help them develop. With the packed schedule that JDT are having right now, it is possible that these two will also play for the first team. That was also part of our discussion with the players that should an opportunity arise, they could even be asked to play in the AFC Champions League.”