Warriors' Velez set for Indian Super League move
Young Player of the Year Velez set to join ISL team NorthEast United next month
If reigning Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League champions Warriors FC are to retain their title, they will have to do it without their star forward Nicolas Velez.
Last season's Young Player of the Year has agreed to a shock move to star-studded Hero Indian Super League (ISL) team NorthEast United, based in the state of Assam.
There, the 25-year-old Argentinian will line up alongside former Barcelona star Simao Sabrosa, and will rub shoulders with some of world football's biggest names.
Velez confirmed the impending move with The New Paper after his side's 2-2 draw against Home United in last night's S.League's "Uniformed Derby" at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium.
"I'm very happy to have this chance, but I'm sad to leave Warriors, because I am leaving behind many friends in Singapore," said Velez.
"I want to say 'thank you' to my club for giving me the chance to show what I can do alongside some of the best players in the world."
Velez will leave Singapore on Aug 20, meaning he can play in another three games for the Warriors.
The eight-team ISL, formed in 2013, is known for its financial strength and star power.
It has attracted stars like Brazilian World Cup winners Roberto Carlos (player-coach for Delhi Dynamos) and Lucio (Goa FC), French superstar Nicolas Anelka (player-coach for Mumbai City), and ex-Chelsea striker, Romanian Adrian Mutu (Pune City).
Coaches include Brazilian legend Zico (Goa FC), Italian World Cup winner Marco Materazzi (Chennaiyin FC), and former England internationals Peter Taylor (Kerala Blasters) and David Platt (Pune City).
NorthEast are coached by Venezuelan Cesar Farias.
The ISL is also known for its strong support, and boasted an average attendance of almost 25,000 last season.
Velez revealed that he was approached by NorthEast United after playing in the Singapore Selection's 4-0 defeat by Premier League side Arsenal on July 15 in the Barclays Asia Trophy.
He declined to reveal his salary at NorthEast, but said: "When you compare the money of that league and the S.League, there is a very big difference... I could not say 'no'.
"Even the club (Warriors), when they saw (what they offered), they could not say 'no'.
"So I really appreciate the chance."
Warriors coach Alex Weaver did not want to speak on his star player's move, and only said: "We're waiting on things to be confirmed and an official club announcement will hopefully be made soon."
Velez, a product of the famed River Plate youth academy, played in the same team as Tottenham Hotspur star Erik Lamela and Juventus man Roberto Pereyra. He arrived in the S.League at the start of 2014 via Spain.
He left River for another top-tier Argentinian team, Huracan, in search of first-team opportunities, before crossing the Atlantic to sign for third-tier Spanish club Atletico Sanluqueno.
He made an instant impression in the S.League, scoring 21 goals as he thrilled with his skill on the ball, winning the league's Young Player of the Year gong last season.
The South American also earned call-ups to Singapore Selection sides that took on Juventus, Arsenal and Stoke City in the last 18 months.
Harimau stun Albirex
ALBIREX 0 HARIMAU MUDA 1,
WARRIORS 2 HOME 2
Title hopefuls Albirex Niigata were stunned 1-0 by Harimau Muda at the Jurong East Stadium yesterday, thanks to Faizat Ghazli's 67th-minute goal.
Over at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium, a 94th-minute header by Home United defender Abdil Qaiyyim denied reigning S.League champions Warriors FC all three points.
The Warriors looked set for the win after goals from Shi Jiayi (40th minute) and Fazrul Nawaz (75th) cancelled out Azhar Sairudin's third-minute strike for the visitors.
But Abdil's last-gasp goal earned 10-man Home - who had substitute Fazli Ayob sent off in the 81st minute for a high challenge - a precious point.