Shahril and Baihakki sign for Warriors FC
Shahril and Baihakki sign for nine-time champions Warriors FC
They have three Asean Football Championships, a South-east Asia (SEA) Games bronze medal and a Malaysian Super League title to their names but, interestingly, Shahril Ishak and Baihakki Khaizan have never won an S.League title in their careers.
The two national team stalwarts will get the chance to hopefully add the missing honour to their impressive resumes this year after signing for Warriors FC.
For Shahril, the 2010 S.League Player of the Year with 132 caps, he has come full circle with his move to the nine-time S.League champions
"I had played for the Warriors Under-12s and Under-14s before I joined the National Football Academy," said the forward.
"Coach Razif Onn was taking an older age group then and it's funny how after so many years, I'm playing for him again at the same club.
"It's a fresh challenge to be back in the S.League after spending six seasons away and it's nice to be closer to my family.
"This is one championship which I have not won before and I feel we have a good team to win the club's 10th league title."
Baihakki admitted that he had entertained thoughts of hanging up his boots when it seemed like no S.League club were keen to sign the national team centurions due to uncertainties about funding.
After all, the defender has just completed a lucrative three-season stint with Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) and runs a successful spa business with his wife.
But the 2003 S.League Young Player of the Year still very much wants to play the sport he loves and was a relieved man when Warriors FC came calling.
"It was not my first reaction to quit, but it looked like the situation did not allow me to continue playing," said Baihakki, who has 129 caps for the Lions.
"So I feel grateful for the Warriors' belief in us and we will repay their faith.
"I also realised I don't have an S.League winners' medal in my cabinet so that's a big motivation.
"The club have set a clear path towards what we want to achieve and I feel we have what it takes. There are many familiar faces in the team so we don't feel like strangers in the team."
Indeed, there is a reunion of sorts with winger Ridhuan Muhd, defender Hafiz Osman and converted midfielder Shaiful Esah, seniors whom Shahril and Baihakki won the 2007 SEA Games bronze with.
Razif said: "I need a key player at centre back and, fortunately for us, Baihakki was out of contract. We signed him to complement Kento Fukuda with his reading of the game.
"The same goes for Shahril, who will be our playmaker and provide the creativity.
"Their vast experience is an asset to any team and I'm glad they are playing for us."
Shahril and Baihakki have been almost inseparable in their careers.
Graduating from the NFA, they played with distinction for the Young Lions from 2004 to 2006.
After the duo went about their own ways from 2007 to 2010, they were reunited at Indonesia's Persib Bandung and Medan Chiefs, the LionsXII, and then Malaysia's JDT.
As they approach their 33rd birthdays later this month, both of them hope the move to the Warriors can help them force their way back into the Lions' starting XI after featuring fleetingly at last year's Suzuki Cup.
"Transition is part of football, but we accept the healthy challenge and we never give up," said Baihakki.
"We have a winning mentality so we will definitely fight for a first XI place in the national team."
Shahril added: "We feel we can still contribute to the national team for the Asian Cup qualifiers and we will prove it in our return to the S.League."