Football: Eight players to watch in the Singapore Premier League in 2023

Albirex Niigata’s goalkeeper Hassan Sunny joined the Japanese club in the off season and should strengthen their backline this season. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Shawal Anuar, 31, Lion City Sailors, forward

The Sailors’ new recruit joins on the back of a career-best season, having recorded 14 goals and 10 assists in all competitions for Hougang United last term. Shawal, capped 25 times for Singapore, adds attacking depth to the 2021 Singapore Premier League (SPL) champions, who have lost both Faris Ramli and Gabriel Quak. Adept on both flanks, Shawal still possesses bags of pace and will be a constant threat with his direct dribbling.

Hassan Sunny, 38, Albirex Niigata, goalkeeper

With 103 clean sheets in 349 club appearances, the Lions goalkeeper will bolster Albirex’s backline with his shot-stopping and leadership qualities. Hassan will play a key role in guiding a youthful team with fresh-faced talents. With Hassan’s addition, Albirex can expect to improve on last season’s tally of 43 goals conceded in 28 league matches and a paltry four clean sheets.

Ilhan Noor, 20, Young Lions, defender

A key feature of the Geylang International side who finished fourth last season, 20-year-old Ilhan Noor is an industrious attacking right-back who has shown maturity far beyond his age. Having enlisted for national service, Ilhan will link up with Philippe Aw’s Young Lions this season. Composed with good crossing ability and a strong dribbler, this could well be Ilhan’s breakthrough year.

Ajay Robson, 19, Hougang United, midfielder

Part of Hougang’s Under-21 squad last season, Ajay has now made the step-up to the senior squad. An attacking midfielder by trade, the teenager started last Sunday’s Community Shield and impressed with his touches and bursts of pace. With SPL clubs required to start at least one U-23 player, Ajay is likely to get more minutes to impress.

Glenn Kweh, 22, Tampines Rovers, forward

Featuring in all but one of the Young Lions’ league matches in 2022, he notched two goals and six assists. Now with Tampines, Kweh will add another dimension to coach Gavin Lee’s tactical plans as a left-footed attacker with positional versatility. With his dribbling and playmaking ability, national team opportunities beckon, should Kweh have a positive season.

Yushi Yamaya, 22, Geylang International, forward

Geylang International Yushi Yamaya will lead their attack after the departure of Sime Zuzul. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

He has big shoes to fill at Geylang, having been brought in as a replacement for former talisman Sime Zuzul. The Japanese had a spell with J3 League side Kagoshima United two seasons ago, before he moved up a division to Yokohama FC in J2 but saw limited minutes. His technical quality will be vital for the Eagles this season.

Alen Kozar, 27, Balestier Khalsa, midfielder

Alen Kozar (right, in orange vest), will provide Balestier Khalsa with defensive solidity in midfield. ST PHOTO: RYAN CHIONG

Arguably the biggest name to have arrived in this transfer window, the Slovenian captained his former side NS Mura to a famous 2-1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur in the Uefa Europa Conference League in November 2021. Having spent five seasons playing in Slovenia’s top division, Kozar will be a powerful presence in the Tigers’ midfield this term.

Marin Mudrazija, 27, Tanjong Pagar United, forward

Marin Mudrazija was born in Zagreb and has plied his trade across numerous clubs in Croatia. PHOTO: TANJONG PAGAR UNITED

The 1.83m journeyman has played in various European leagues, with his last venture at SSU Politehnica Timisoara in the Romanian second division, where he scored once in 10 matches. The Croat could form a lethal partnership with compatriot Mirko Sugic; the duo once played together at NK Dubrava from 2018 to 2019.

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