A steady and long-term partnership augurs well for any defender. That has not been the case for Perak defender Shahrul Saad.
The captain of the Seladang has to work on the chemistry with a new centreback partner, as the club has offloaded Lebanese international Hussein El Dor.
The 26-year-old national player could now be partnering a South Korean centreback.
Jeon Hyo-seok has been seen training with the team for over a week.
The 22-year-old, who plied his trade for Korean League 2 club Asan Munghunghwa in 2019, is expected to fill the Asian quota slot for Perak next season.
It has been musical chairs in defence for Shahrul since he joined the team in 2016. He has variously partnered Idris Ahmad, Thiago Aquino, Zachary Anderson, Jad Noureddine and Robert Cornthwaite in the backline.
Asked if it was bothersome for him, the defender said he had no problems working with anyone.
“Change is constant. As a professional, you have to work with anyone.
“Even in the national team, sometimes I play with Adam (Nor Azlin) or Aidil (Zafuan Abd Radzak), ” he said.
Those changes in partnership may take some getting used to but there is one new person he is happy to welcome by his side. His baby girl was born on Dec 11 and she has raised his hopes.
“This season, we finished fifth and also lost to Kedah in the FA Cup. There were ups and downs, but the birth of my second daughter makes the year a happy one and raises my spirits.
“I have to work on chemistry with the new partner, but as long as I and the other partner work hard, we can achieve success.
“The team is back for pre-season, and training looks good. Everybody is eager to help the club do well next season. In the last two years, we have qualified for two finals (Malaysia Cup in 2018 and FA Cup in 2019), so the momentum has to continue.
“As a player, I only hope for the best. My wish for 2020 is to finish better in the Super League and also qualify for a final.”
Two players instrumental to the successes of 2019 – Brendan Gan and Norhakim Hassan – have left the club to join Selangor, and Shahrul admits that he misses their presence.
He said the midfielders were assets to the club, but in professional football, players come and go, and the team will have to look for ways to move on.
“They were more than teammates.
“We shared great times together, and as coach Mehmet (Durakovic) always says, we are one family.
“It is difficult to see them go, but I believe in the other players who will replace them. I wish them the best of luck.”
Hafiz Ramdan has been signed from the now-defunct club PKNP to replace Norhakim, while D. Kenny Pallraj will be expected to partner Leandro Santos in the middle next season.
In 2019, Shahrul played 37 matches for Perak in all competitions and scored three goals in the Super League. With the national team, he played in all seven games of the 2022 World Cup-2023 Asia Cup qualifiers.