It could all have been so different had Mahali Jasuli not made the hard decision before the start of the 2018 Malaysian football season. With a year left on his contract with Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT), Mahali could have stayed with the reigning league champions but decided that the loan move to PKNS FC was the right one for him at his point of his career.
A couple of 90 minutes and three goals in all competitions later, Mahali has once again earned his way back into the national team. His also score in his last appearance for the national team when Malaysia started the current Asian Cup qualifiers campaign in the 1-2 reverse to Lebanon in Johor Bahru.
The 28-year-old believes that the way things are now, it should that he made the right choice at the start of the season.
"It's a good opportunity for me to be selected to play for the national team. I will of course work hard to not waste this chance. There's no denying that the move to PKNS has given me the chance to perform and the capture the attention of the national team coaches," said Mahali to Goal.
The transformation is clear for all to see and Mahali is in-line to start in Tan Cheng Hoe's first match as the head coach, when Malaysia take to the field against Mongolia at Bukit Jalil National Stadium tomorrow.
He could feature in the midfield alongside his former team mates in Safiq Rahim and Ignacio 'Natxo' Insa, looking to inspire a Malaysian team to their first taste of victory since November 2016.
"As this will be the first match of 2018 and despite us already being out of the running for the Asian Cup, it's still an important match. Firstly to improve the national team ranking and as well to give us the first win of the year. If we can do that, then I'm sure it will give us a great momentum for the rest of the year."
"Of course it gives me great confidence having found the net a couple of times this season. But I still need to improve and it's up to me to be more consistent in my performance.
"I don't have any issues with coach Tan. As everyone know, I've already been with him for a long time now. He has his own style and it's important for every player to get to know and understand that. We need to give our 100% and I'm sure that we can win against Mongolia," added Mahali.
His forays down the right hand side, then as a right back, was a major part of Malaysia's only success in the 21st century when they won the 2010 Suzuki Cup. This time, moving further forward and recapturing his rhythm once again, Mahali look to once again become a major threat for Malaysia down the flanks.