The 5-time Malaysia Super League champions have begun early work on building the squad for the 2019 season and in particular, their first foray into the AFC Champions League next season. Having retained the league title in 2018, The Southern Tigers have also reached the quarterfinal of the FA Cup and semi-final of the Malaysia Cup.
First on the agenda towards preparing the team for the new season was the replacement of loyal servant Marcos Antonio. The 35-year-old joined Johor Darul Ta'zim FC in 2014 and have stayed for the next five seasons, a feat unprecedented in the Super League. He even recovered from an ankle cruciate ligament injury to retake his place in the side back from Bruno Soares.
But age is fast catching up with the ever dependable Antonio and his playing time with JDT has come to a natural end as they moved quickly to secure the signing of Mauricio dos Santos Nascimento or better known as just Mauricio. The Brazilian becomes the second former Lazio player to have signed with JDT, following the footsteps of Simone Del Nero.
The 30-year-old Mauricio was on the books on Serie A club Lazio before both parties agreed to a mutual termination of his contract last week. That opened the door for JDT to swoop in and Mauricio becomes the first import signing for 2019 with two more slots left to be filled.
He started his career as a youth player with Brazilian club, Palmeiras in 2006 before making his first appearance for the former Copa Libertadores champions in 2008. A couple of loan moves would follow before Portugal's Sporting Clube de Portugal picked him up for a mere £405k in 2013.
Mauricio made himself a fixture in the club, helping them to a second place finish in the Primeira Liga, behind champions Benfica in the 2013/14 season. The runners-up spot meant that Mauricio had taken his team into the group stage of the 2014/15 UEFA Champions League.
The following season he suffered a group stage exit from the Champions League with Sporting, as well as Europa League. But in the January 2015 transfer window, Sporting loaned him out to Italian club Lazio before the then manager, Stefano Pioli signed him permanently in the summer of 2015 for the Rome-based club.
In his first full season with Lazio in the 2015/16 season, Mauricio helped the team to an 8th place finish in the Serie A, quartefinal of the Coppa Italia as well as reaching the last 16 of the Europa League. But halfway through the season, Simone Inzaghi took over from Pioli and the former was less keen on the services of Mauricio.
Hence in the 2016/17 season, he was sent out for a season-long loan to Russian club Spartak Moscow. There he achieved plenty of success by winning the Russian Premier Liga title as Spartak edged out CSKA Moscow.
Another loan stint followed the next season as he spent the 2017/18 season with Polish club Legia Warsaw. At Legia, Mauricio picked up the winners medal in the Ekstraklasa (Polish top division) and the Polish Cup despite not featuring much for them throughout the season.
The right footer has big boots to fill given the contribution of Antonio in JDT's history and it will be interesting to see how he adapts to his first club in Asia having collected plenty of experience from his time in South America and Europe.
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Malaysia U-19's Hadi Fayyadh was recognised by the local fans, who asked him for photos, while training in Jakarta on Sunday. We asked him, what does he think of a club career in Indonesia? Sewaktu berlatih di Jakarta pada hari Ahad, penyerang Malaysia B19 Hadi Fayyadh turut mendapat perhatian peminat seberang, yang mengambil gambar bersamanya. Goal bertanya pendapatnya mengenai kemungkinan bekerjaya bersama mana-mana kelab Indonesia di masa depan.