Kopitovic & Bosnjak: From foes to strike partners at Tampines Rovers
Tampines Rovers attacker Kopitovic looking forward to teaming up with his compatriot Bosnjak
From being rivals in their homeland Montenegro to now hoping to form a deadly partnership for Tampines Rovers in the Singapore Premier League (SPL), striker Boris Kopitovic is excited at the prospect of linking up with their new signing Armin Bosnjak.
The 26-year-old forward, who joined the Stags on a one-year deal, started training with his new teammates earlier this week after completing a 14-day quarantine.
Tampines have already secured the signatures of exciting attacking prospect Marc Ryan Tan, 19, midfielder Amirul Haikal, 21, and defender Irfan Najeeb, 21, all from the Young Lions, while also acquiring 18-year-old midfielder Iman Hakim Ibrahim from SPL champions Albirex Niigata.
However, the capture of the experienced Bosnjak has taken on greater significance for the Stags, following talisman Jordan Webb's decision to return to Canada after bagging 101 goals for five clubs across 11 seasons in the SPL.
And, if Kopitovic's affirmation of his countryman, whom he likens to Webb, is anything to go by, then Bosnjak can be expected to play a pivotal role in landing Tampines silverware this season.
"I have known Armin from our playing time in Montenegro. We have always played against each other but not together, but we have spoken before," Kopitovic, who scored nine goals in his debut SPL campaign last year, told The New Paper.
"Armin is a good player, a good guy and he is able to help us a lot. He is a very good replacement for Jordan Webb...
"Like Webb, he is very fast, very skilful and, while he does score goals, he is better at creating chances and providing assists.
"I'm looking forward to getting more goals because of Armin and for us to help the team win something this year."
Bosnjak scored 14 goals and provided eight assists in 145 appearances for Montenegrin top-tier outfits Iskra Danilovgrad, Rudar Pljevlja and FK Zeta as well as with second-tier Jedinstvo Bijelo Polje, where he begun his career.
He moved to Kosovo to join top-flight side Ballkani last August, but terminated the contract by mutual agreement in December due to a lack of playing time.
Tampines coach Gavin Lee was quick to dismiss talk about Bosnjak being Webb's replacement, adding that the Montenegrin has been on the club's radar even before the 2020 campaign.
The Stags were close to concluding a deal with Zeta for Bosnjak's services, but complications arising from third-party ownership put paid to the transfer.
Lee also said that his latest signing is the final piece of the jigsaw as last year's SPL runners-up hunt for their first league title since 2013.
"We received positive feedback on his character and personality," said the 30-year-old, whose side will be making their AFC Champions League group-stage debut this season.
"In terms of attributes, he is an explosive player, someone who makes unpredictable actions in tight areas and is capable of stretching defences.
"The players are even more excited (to begin the title challenge) with him on board."
Lee also highlighted Bosnjak's versatility, saying he is able to play anywhere along the frontline, but urged patience from fans as he feels the new arrival needs time to acclimatise and gel with the team.
Bosnjak, who hopes to get used to the heat and humidity in a week or two, believes he will make a seamless switch to his new club as they share the same attacking philosophy.
"I have been following Tampines since Boris' move and I know they are the best club in Singapore," he said.
"I have watched their games and they dominate ball possession, they are an attack-minded team who score a lot of goals and I will fit well (into that system)."
The signing of Bosnjak completes the Stags' foreign roster, which includes Kopitovic, Zehrudin Mehmedovic and Kyoga Nakamura.
Ahead of the new season, which TNP understands will get under way next month, the Stags have also made moves off the pitch.
Global logistics solutions company ANA Courier Express has taken over from Hyundai distributor Komoco Motors as the club's principal partner, signing a one-year deal worth $300,000 earlier this week.