KUCHING: Sarawak are holding their breath for if German former international Manuel Friedrich agrees to play for the State, they will probably have one of the players playing at the Champions League and the German Bundesliga.
Besides the Champions League, Manuel, who was introduced by a friend of coach Robert Alberts, has played for the German national team 26 times and at 34 is still wanted by Leverkusen.
Manuel heads the cast of several exciting prospects of players who will increase the depth of the Sarawak squad in their second attempt at the Super League after they were relegated after just one season at the top two seasons ago.
Besides the lack of reserve strength, Alberts said he wanted to have quality players in the bench and if all goes well, he will have a decent squad even though Sarawak are still way off from the mega-rich sides like Johor DT who have RM37 milion in their war chest just to buy players.
Sarawak just cannot compete with these teams which also include ATM, Kelantan and Selangor with Safee Sali for example drawing RM100,000 a month playing for Johor DT.
“We need a strong defender and Manuel (Friedrich) fits the bill for he’s played in everything with his experience in the Bundesliga and Champions League.
“But he wants to see Asia, that’s why he is willing to make it a go to play here and if he agrees to our offer then we have sorted out our defence problem.“In defence we also have Ramez (Lai Ban Huat) at 33 who is still our best player.
“Even Hairol whom I picked to play in 2009 season when I first came to Sarawak and he has now blossomed into a national player,” said Alberts.
If Manuel is on the team, Ronny Harun whose scintillating display has caught the eyes of many other teams wanting to poach, Sarawak will have a surplus of reserves with Hairol and youngster Mohd Dzulfadli Marajeh who could sit on the bench.
On the flanks, Sarawak also have Mafry Balang besides Ramez to complete the Sarawak line-up with Mazwandi Zekeria as the reserve.
In attack, Sarawak could opt for a two foreign strikers upfront if they signed the Australian striker whom they have been contacting and now playing in China and current Bosnian striker Muamer Salibasic depending on whether he is played upfront of keep to his former position as an attacking midfielder.
Even if Bobby Gonzales who had been banging the goals for Sarawak goes off to PDRM who are offering him a higher pay, Sarawak can replace him with a local striker import who is an ex-national striker whom they had been approaching.
In the wings, Sarawak who have no real flankers the whole season will be strengthened next season first with the return from injury of Ashri Chuchu while their former player and the talented Johor player Rashid Aya is also returning to the state that had groomed him for a year.
Apart from Ashri and Rashid, Sarawak may also have another winger from Perak whom they are also negotiating to play for the State to vie for a place in the first-eleven.
For the reserves, Sarawak can have Zamri Morshidi who can also serve on standby for the central striker position while Mazwandi Zekeria can fill in the reserves.
Another winger Dalglish Papin Test who warmed the bench for the whole season may earn his stripes next season as in the last season, he did not remove the fear of playing in the matches but Sarawak are giving him another chance to step up to the plate.
As for Azizan Saperi and Dzulazlan Ibrahim – the two flankers that were out injured, – they are not sure if their forms are good enough for the team next season and may be loaned out to other teams in the Premier League.
Sarawak may also loan out Shahrol Saperi in a similar arrangement next year as the central midfield player and former skipper is a surplus for requirements with Junior Eld’stal, Joseph Kalang who filled in as a left winger to revert to his old position in the middle.
Also vying for a place in the middle is former Terengganu and Felda FC player Reeshafiz Alwi who is likely to return to his home state.
Also on trials for the midfield positions are Pos Malaysia players Mohd Lot Abu Hassan and Mohd Fadzley Md Rashid.
In the goalkeeping position, Sarawak will keep to Sani Annuar Kamsani and Saiful Amar Sudar who had been the mainstays for the team between the posts.
Sarawak may also give a break to former President Cup player Florian Rison Laes who had shown some talents even though he maybe lacking in experience while in veteran local player Aidil Mohamad, Sarawak may not be ready to let him in for next season.
By: Martin Yee