Hariss Harun hopes to repeat JDT success at Lion City Sailors
Lions skipper returning to the SPL after trophy-laden stint in Malaysia
National captain Hariss Harun believes he is swopping similarly ambitious projects as he leaves Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) to return home to the Singapore Premier League (SPL) with the Lion City Sailors.
The Sailors announced the move yesterday afternoon, shortly after JDT revealed on their Facebook page: "JDT and Hariss have mutually terminated the contract in respect of Hariss' decision to return to Singapore due to family matters as Covid-19 has made it impossible to travel back home on a more regular basis."
The 30-year-old made his debut for JDT in 2014, eventually captaining them during a trophy-laden period for the Southern Tigers which saw them win seven straight Malaysian Super League titles, two Malaysia Cups, the Malaysian FA Cup and the AFC Cup.
Hariss, who inked a 3½-year deal with the Sailors, will join the club after the national team's World Cup qualifiers next month. The Sailors are second in the SPL after nine matches, one point behind leaders Albirex Niigata.
The midfielder, who was in the final six months of his JDT deal, told The New Paper: "Maybe a month or so ago, I was thinking of talking to the club on the contract situation. But then I had a talk with the family and, for some personal reasons, I decided it was the best thing for me to come back.
"Also LCS offered a promising platform, with the project and the vision that they have...
"It's quite a similar project to when I joined JDT. JDT was in its infancy, in terms of TMJ's (Johor's Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim) vision for the club. So pretty much LCS is in the same position, they just started a year or so ago...
"Hopefully, I can help LCS with the project they have to dominate local football and make a mark in Asian football."
AFC CUP WINNERS
Bankrolled by Tunku Ismail, JDT are Malaysia's richest club and play at the state-of-the-art Sultan Ibrahim Stadium.
They are the only South-east Asian team to win Asia's second-tier club competition, the AFC Cup.
The Sailors became the SPL's first privatised club when they were taken over by billionaire Forrest Li last year.
They have splashed the cash on various fronts, such as a $10 million training facility due to open next April and the $2.9m record transfer of Brazilian Diego Lopes in January.
What the Sailors lack at the moment are trophies, something Gabriel Quak, the reigning SPL Player of Year, hopes will come with the arrival of serial winner Hariss.
Said the 30-year-old: "I think it is quite important that he brings in this winning mentality because, after all, we are also a new team and we haven't won anything yet...
"Winning has to be a habit... If we really want to build a legacy, at the end of the day, it's trophies."
The attacker added that Hariss' experience in continental competitions will also prove vital, particularly with the Sailors' squad selection unencumbered by SPL rules that require local teams to select three Under-23 players in their starting line-up.
In the SPL, the Sailors' raft of national players - including Hassan Sunny, Amirul Adli, Shahdan Sulaiman, Adam Swandi, Hafiz Nor, Faris Ramli and Quak - and four foreign players have to jostle for eight starting berths.
Said Quak: "That's where his experience will be telling because he has been playing in the AFC Cup and (Asian) Champions League for so many seasons...
"With the (U-23) rule, it's not a fair judgment of how we can really perform, but in the AFC and Singapore Cup, that's where you can see everything."
Hariss himself told The Straits Times in March that the U-23 rule could affect the national team if Lions players were not getting sufficient minutes at club level.
When TNP asked if that was a consideration for him when he was weighing up a move to the Sailors, he said: "We all know the rule is what it is. We can't change it...
"When you have big players in big teams who want to play all the time, there is going to be that competitiveness and also probably some unhappiness, but this is quite normal.
"It's just how you manage and handle it as players and as a club. The better you handle it, the better for the club as a whole...
"I think it is going to be quite healthy, we're going to push and spur each other on."