Southeast Asia Malaysia

Safiq Rahim Returns to the Southern Tigers as Herrera, Sumareh Joins the Party

Reigning Liga Super Malaysia champions Johor Darul Ta’zim have announced a trifecta of signings in the past few days. Having signed both Danial Amier and Syahrian Abimanyu from FELDA United and Madura United respectively in December, JDT have entered the market once again and bagged themselves three signings to bolster their squad for the 2021 season – Argentine striker Jonathan Herrera, Gambian-Malaysian winger Mohamadou Sumareh, and most surprisingly of all, former club captain Safiq Rahim.

Herrera’s signing from Argentine top flight side Central Cordoba was confirmed three weeks ago, however it wasn’t finalized until Monday when the player was unveiled at the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium. The only player who became top scorer of four different tiers of Argentine football, Herrera was brought in to replace Brazilian striker Diogo, who returned to Thailand to play for Thai League 1 leaders BG Pathum United.

Rumors of Sumareh joining JDT had been rife after the player had left Thailand’s Police Tero at the end of 2020 and on Tuesday his signing with the Southern Tigers was made official with his unveiling. Sumareh, who proudly described JDT as “the best club in Malaysia” in his unveiling video, is currently the centerpiece of a controversy that saw him accusing his former club Sri Pahang FC of failing to pay his wages according to his contract. The controversy saw Sumareh walked out of Pahang and into Police Tero, with FIFA ordering Pahang to pay Sumareh US$1.2 million in accumulated backdated salary and breach of contract last Friday.

Sumareh had been approached by a number of Malaysian clubs however he chose JDT as he felt that the Southern Tigers are “the best club for him.”

The last of JDT’s three signings was announced on Wednesday and it’s the one that excites the fans the most. 33-year old midfielder Safiq, captain of JDT for three years from 2015 to 2018 and servant of the club for six years, has returned to the Southern Tigers after a two year stint at Melaka United. Closely associated with the number 8 jersey, Safiq was one of the most successful players of JDT’s history in his first stint, winning 5 Liga Super titles, one Malaysian FA Cup, one Malaysia Cup, three Piala Sumbangsihs, and an AFC Cup title with the club. It is hoped that Safiq’s experience and leadership would guide JDT to their eighth consecutive Liga Super title in the 2021 season and he is expected to re-assume his role as club captain.

Further strengthening JDT was the early return of Safawi Rasid from his brief loan stint at Portuguese Liga NOS strugglers Portimonense SC. Safawi’s return, in addition to the new players that JDT had brought in, meant that the Southern Tigers once again have a squad that is a few levels above their fellow Liga Super competitors while at the same time being capable of going toe-to-toe against some of Asia’s finest teams in the AFC Champions League.

JDT owner Tunku Ismail Idris announced on Wednesday in social media that he’s going to talk to Sumareh in hopes of convincing the naturalized winger to reduce the amount of money that Pahang must pay him and also announce a complete list of JDT’s squad in due time. Tunku Ismail also dropped a hint that he’s going to perform one last dive into the transfer market to purchase a high-quality foreign player for JDT’s reserve squad JDT II in the Liga Premier Malaysia, as he seek to create the strongest teams in the top two tiers of Malaysian football.