S.League side Hougang sign Croatia's Plazibat from Japan
Hougang United believe they have found the final piece to make up their squad for the upcoming Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League season.
Yesterday, the Cheetahs, last year's wooden spoonists, announced the signing of Croatian attacking midfielder Stipe Plazibat, who has spent most of the last three years playing in Japan.
The 26-year-old joins Japanese playmaker Fumiya Kogure - the reigning S.League Player of the Year - and Slovak attacker Jozef Kaplan as the team's foreign trio for 2016.
Hougang coach K Balagumaran said he had weighed up a move for former Balestier Khalsa hitman Goran Ljubojevic - who scored 27 goals for the Tigers in all competitions in 2014 - but plumped for a more versatile link man in Plazibat instead.
Explained the coach: "I took some time to decide, but I went for Stipe because I feel we should not depend on just one player for goals.
"I believe everybody in my team can score, and should chip in.
"We have Fumiya, Kaplan, Iqbal (Hussain), Nazrul (Ahmad Nazari)... All of them have goals in them.
"Anyway, as a player coming from the J.League, Stipe fits in with the philosophy of football I am trying to get Hougang to play; possession, passing football.
"He works hard, helps out in defence and is good going forward, so I'm happy we've signed him."
An all-action display by Plazibat in a pre-season friendly against eight-time S.League champions Warriors FC on Friday helped Bala make up his mind.
The 1.85m, 80kg player showed his versatility by playing as a central midfielder in the first half, then as a striker in the second, and found the net with a close-range effort, although Hougang lost 3-2.
Going by his CV, there should be little doubts of Plazibat's quality.
He previously played for clubs in the top division of Croatia and Macedonia, before turning out in the second tier in Japan with FC Gifu - where he was the club's MVP in 2013 - and then V-Varen Nagasaki.
He said: "I am happy to have landed this opportunity with Hougang United. I am excited by this new challenge and I am ever ready for the new season.
"I know a lot about this country, such as its people, culture, climate, and the football level, as many of my friends have plied their trade in this beautiful country.
"With my goals and assists, I will like to inject a new spirit into the team as I am a fighter who hates losing."
Apart from their impressive foreign contingent, Hougang have also made a number of eye-catching local signings.
National wide man Nazrul Ahmad Nazari headlines the six former LionsXII players they have brought in, while the Cheetahs have also signed six-cap Lions midfielder M Anumanthan.