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Five potential replacements for Safawi Rasid at JDT

5:28 PM MYT 02/09/2020
Composite Safawi Rasid replacement
With Safawi Rasid looking set for a move to join Portuguese side Portimonense, Goal look at the internal and external replacement options for JDT

Very few would argue that the departure of Safawi would not leave a gaping hole in Johor Darul Ta'zim's (JDT) line-up. The upper management at JDT will be assessing all posibilities in finding the right replacement to fill the void when the Malaysian international starts the next chapter of his career in Primeira Liga in Portugal.

With JDT dedicated and determined to stick with their footballing DNA, it would mean that whoever the replacment is, he would have to assume a similar role to Safawi - operating as a wide forward with the licence to roam in-field and most important of all, have the finishing capability to also replicate Safawi's industry in front of goal.

Assuming the 6-time Malaysia Super League does not intend to change the choice of import players in seeking a replacement for Safawi, the options would have to come domestically. What the Southern Tigers have in their massive squad is options - four within the squad that can come to fore before even needing to look outside.

Syafiq Ahmad

2019 saw the rise to prominence for Syafiq as he was entrusted to more opportunities at club and country. His goals have come in handy for JDT in earning their first win in the AFC Champions League against Kashima Antlers as well as the Malaysian national team during the joint 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup qualifications.

Not as muscular in build as Safawi but what Syafiq has in abundance is his game intelligence and versatility. Able to operate as the central striker, Syafiq has also shown that he's equally adept as an attacking midfielder as well as a wide attacker - all the while not diminishing his capability to get into goal-scoring positions.

Based on current standing in the game, Syafiq could be the best option among the five candidates to fill Safawi's big shoes.

Akhyar Rashid

The 21-year-old was in the middle of a tug-of-war between JDT and Kedah last year for his services after sterling performances for the Malaysia age-group national teams as well as domestic competitions, to which the former landed the player that they want. But his first season with JDT has been less than a complete success story.

Akhyar was used sparringly and was able to contribute meaningfully with crucial goals in some matches but the consistency wasn't there. There were even suggestion that the player himself was less focused on the task at hand than what is required of him, leading to some truthfully woeful outing for both club and country towards the latter half of 2019.

But if the Jitra-born can rediscover his form, there won't be many defenders who would want to defend against his jinking dribbles.

Ramadhan Saifullah

Arguably the most home-grown option among the five candidates, Ramadhan has risen through the youth ranks at JDT from JDT IV to JDT III to JDT II and eventually part of the main team this season. He got his first opportunity to show what he can do in Safawi's position in JDT's match against Pahang last week and did his chances no harm with some inventive play and a goal to boot.

The 19-year-old had previously been part of Malaysia Under-19 squad that participated in the AFC U19 Championship in Indonesia back in 2018 together with the likes of Akhyar, Nik Akif Syahiran and Hadi Fayyadh under the guidance of Bojan Hodak.

Physically probably the closest to Safawi and as he showed against Pahang, also has speed on his side that JDT may look to utilise.

Arif Aiman

The youngest of all five options at just 18 years of age, Arif has already received a big vote of confidence from the coaching staff at JDT in his capabilities when he was brought on as a substitute prior to the suspension of matches back in March in the 1-1 draw against Felda United at Sultan Ibrahim Stadium.

It was just a short cameo but it was clear what Arif brings to the table. His braveness was apparent in the mere 15 minutes he was on the pitch, always ready to receive the ball wide and the first instinct is to take his marker on before attempting to produce a cross or a pass into the box for his team mates.

However the former Mokhtar Dahari Academy player do prefer to operate from the left hand side and thus may not be high on the list of candidates to replace Safawi on the right.

Mohamadou Sumareh

If JDT are to look for an external option, they may have their eyes fixed on Sumareh, who because of his time with the Malaysia national team, is already familiar and close to many of the current players in JDT's squad. Still only 25, Sumareh is young enough for JDT to mould into their style if they want to pursue him.

With the national team, the right attacking berth is often shared between Sumareh and Safawi as both do their best work on that side of the pitch. More than that, he has already build up an deep understanding with Matthew Davies from their time at Pahang and could be a real weapon for JDT to reintroduce back to club football.

As it is, Sumareh is already looking to cut ties with Pahang and that might just prompt JDT to take a punt on him.