Shahril could be back in S.League
National captain also holding out for offers from Malaysia and Thailand when JDT II stint ends
National football captain and former S.League Player of the Year Shahril Ishak could make a return to the S.League as soon as next season.
The 32-year-old's contract with Johor Darul Ta'zim II runs out at the end of the season and is unlikely to be renewed.
Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim - Crown Prince of Johor and chairman of JDT - had written on the club's website and Facebook page that Shahril and fellow Singapore international Baihakki Khaizan "will not be a part of our project for next year", before thanking them for their dedication and professionalism.
"I would like to return and play in the S.League some day. It is where I started my career and it means something special to me," 2010 S.League Player of the Year Shahril told The New Paper before the national team training session yesterday.
"It could be as soon as next year, or it could be later. It depends on the offers I have and I will have to discuss them with my family to decide what is best for us.
"Of course, I'm realistic enough to expect a pay cut after leaving JDT. But I feel I'm still capable of playing in Malaysia.
"If an offer comes from Thailand, after their import rules changed to include one Asean player in their quota, I will also strongly consider playing there for a year."
Before the emergence of Hariss Harun, now a key player and AFC Cup winner with JDT I, Shahril and Baihakki were Singapore football's poster boys.
As recent as 2011, the duo had signed for Indonesian club Medan Chiefs on a two-year $384,000 contract.
I would like to return and play in the S.League some day. It is where I started my career and it means something special to me. — Shahril Ishak (near left), at national team training with Irfan Fandi (red bib) and Shakir Hamzah PHOTO: STRAITS TIMES
The following year, they returned to Singapore to play for the LionsXII in the Malaysian Super League (MSL).
In the 2012 Suzuki Cup, Shahril was named the Most Valuable Player and Baihakki grabbed the winning goal against Thailand in the final.
Despite their soaring stock, they turned down a move to the Thai league and won the MSL with the LionsXII in 2013. They turned heads when they signed up to play in the second-tier Malaysian Premier League with JDT II in 2014.
While Baihakki's 1.90m frame and composure make him almost indispensable in the heart of the national team's defence, Shahril's perceived lack of pace cost him a starting place under former national coach Bernd Stange.
Although he scored the opener in a rare start in Stange's last home game in charge as Singapore beat Myanmar 2-1, V Sundramoorthy has yet to start Shahril in his four 'A' internationals since taking over, even as he has recalled older warhorses such as Daniel Bennett and Mustafic Fahrudin.
LACK OF GOALS
While goals have not been forthcoming for the national team, with just three scored in four matches - Myanmar (1-0), Vietnam (0-3), Cambodia (1-2) and Bahrain (1-3) - Shahril is still unlikely to start in the Causeway Challenge against Malaysia at the National Stadium on Friday.
True to his down-to-earth nature, Shahril, who has 134 caps according to Fifa, said: "This is football. I understand that things will not always go my way and the time will come to move on at club and international level.
"I can only keep giving my best in training and whenever I get the chance to play.
"Of course, I'm not used to being benched. I feel that I can still contribute and I have proven that I can still do so at club and international level."
Meanwhile, sources have told TNP that Baihakki could still play with JDT II for another season as he has one more year with the club on his contract.
While the defender declined comment as the matter is still not resolved, it is understood that the 32-year-old, who has 126 caps, will enter discussions with Tunku Ismail after returning from next Tuesday's away match against Hong Kong.