Singapore Premier League • February 22, 2022
2022 Singapore Premier League: Major transfers
SINGAPORE, 22 FEBRUARY 2022 – With a new season always comes renewed excitement and it is fair to say that the anticipation levels for the 2022 AIA Singapore Premier League campaign are the highest in a long time.
A series of exciting new signings has got the pulses of many local supporters racing – SPL.sg picks out the ones to look out for!
Lion City Sailors | DOB: 14/4/88 (33) | Striker | South Korea
The reigning champions made a statement with their first signing for the new season by landing South Korea international Kim Shin-wook. Capped 56 times, the 1.98-metre striker’s arrival was announced last November and signalled the Lion City Sailors’ determination to improve their squad ahead of their maiden Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League (ACL) campaign. With 132 goals in 350 appearances, Kim is the current third all-time top scorer in the K League 1 and has won two ACL titles, in addition to two K League 1 titles. A part of South Korea’s teams at the 2014 and 2018 FIFA World Cups, Kim joined on a free transfer from Chinese giants Shanghai Shenghua and has already made an instant impact – a brace on his first appearance in Singapore helped the Sailors triumph in the AIA Community Shield. His height will mean that he is nearly unstoppable in aerial duels and he is also no slouch with his feet – Kim will be expected to fire the Sailors to domestic glory and make a splash in Asia.
Photo: Hougang United
Hougang United | DOB: 6/8/86 (35) | Attacking midfielder | Brazil
Part of Crystal Palace’s 2012/13 Championship play-off winning campaign, André Moritz’s arrival at Hougang United may be considered a surprise coup. Born in Florianópolis, Moritz started his career in Avai’s youth team and moved on to Internacional, where he made his professional debut in 2006. The flamboyant midfielder then spent time in Turkey before ending up in Palace for a season, scoring five times and making three assists. A spell with Bolton Wanderers followed before Asia came calling; there were stints at Korea’s Pohang Steelers, India’s Mumbai City and Thailand’s Buriram United. An attacking midfielder who is regarded as a number 10, Moritz will add creativity and flair to the Cheetahs’ offence and feed the likes of Pedro Bortoluzo, Shawal Anuar, Amy Recha and Idraki Adnan. With a cultured left foot that can thread accurate through balls and be a weapon at set-pieces, Moritz is expected to star for Hougang in the league as well as the AFC Cup.
Albirex Niigata (S) | DOB: 19/12/85 (36) | Striker | Japan
The four-time SPL champions have signed some quality players during their time in Singapore, but perhaps none as high profile as Tadanari Lee. The former Japan international earned cult hero status in his homeland in 2011 when he came off the bench in the AFC Asian Cup final to score the only goal in extra time. Lee also spent time with Southampton FC and is a J League veteran with over 400 appearances. He scored 107 times for six clubs, winning the 2019 J1 League crown with Yokohama Marinos and the 2017 AFC Champions League title with Urawa Reds. The classy left-footed attacker has already shown what he can do during Albirex Niigata (S)’s defeat to the Sailors in the AIA Community Shield, winning and scoring a penalty while pulling the strings for the White Swans in attack throughout the game. Lee’s quality is undoubted and his guile and experience will be very useful in guiding a young Albirex side as they seek their fifth league title.
Photo: Geylang International
Geylang International | DOB: 10/6/93 (28) | Central midfielder | France
With stalwart Barry Maguire departing after last season, Geylang International needed someone to fill his boots. It looks like they have done just that with Vincent Bezecourt, who arrived in Singapore with a Armenian Premier League winners’ medal after triumphing with Alashkert in the 2020/21 season. Born in Aire-sur-l’Adour, Bezecourt moved to the United States in 2014 to play college football and eventually made it to the first team of New York Red Bulls. The creative central midfielder spent three Major League Soccer seasons with them before dropping down a tier to the United Soccer Championship with Miami FC for a year. The Frenchman showed great resolve to come back to the pitch after suffering a serious injury while with the Red Bulls and at 28, will feel that he still has plenty to offer – starting with the Eagles.
Christopher van Huizen
Photo: Tampines Rovers
Tampines Rovers | DOB: 28/11/92 (29) | Winger | Singapore
A classic winger who hugs the line and takes on players without fear, Christopher van Huizen will to rediscover his form at Tampines Rovers. The Under-23 rule saw Van Huizen start on the bench more often than in the line-up last year with Geylang International but the skilful attacker should be a first-time regular for the Stags this season. Genuinely as good with foot, Van Huizen is capable of pinpoint deliveries from either flank and is one of the best dribblers in the league. His return to Tampines marks his third stint at the club, having began his career with them in 2014. Spells at the LionsXII, Young Lions and Home United followed, while he has also been capped four times at international level. As one of the more senior heads in a young squad, Van Huizen will be expected to play a leading role as the Stags aim to do well in both the SPL and AFC Cup.
Photo: Balestier Khalsa
Balestier Khalsa | DOB: 31/8/99 (22) | Attacking midfielder | Japan
The very first signing by any club for the 2022 season, Ryoya Taniguchi’s recruitment was announced in October. The effervescent attacker joins Balestier Khalsa after two seasons with Albirex Niigata (S), having arrived in 2020. The Kanazawa native tallied 13 goals and 10 assists in 33 appearances for the White Swans, helping them to the title in 2020 while a personal breakout season in 2021 – nine goals and eight assists – led to him being nominated for the AIA Young Player of the Year and being named in the Team of the Year. A dynamic player with an eye for a pass as well as a finish, Taniguchi will add plenty of flair and creativity to the Tigers’ attack as he looks to link up with fellow new arrival Kuraba Kondo and striker Shuhei Hoshino.
Photo: Standard Liege
Lion City Sailors | DOB: 17/6/92 (29) | Winger | Belgium
The Lion City Sailors’ final foreign signing is the league’s first ever Belgian player. Former Belgium youth international Maxime Lestienne sealed the transfer earlier this month, arriving on a free transfer from Belgian top-flight side Standard Liege. The skilful attacker, who started his career at hometown side Royal Excelsior Mouscron, has represented Belgium at every international age group from the Under-15s through to the Under-21s. There, he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Thorgan Hazard, Yannick Carrasco and Michy Batshuayi. Lestienne was called up to the senior squad in 2013 and named on the bench for a friendly against the United States; however, he never went on to make a senior debut. He has played in the UEFA Champions League with PSV – where he won the 2015/16 Eredivisie title – and the Europa League with both Standard and Club Brugge, and has also featured for Genoa, Rubin Kazan and Malaga. Lestienne arrives with considerable pedigree and provides Kim Do-hoon with plenty of options on the flanks, with Gabriel Quak, Hafiz Nor and Faris Ramli all capable of playing on both wings.
More to look out for
Of course, there are other names who have the potential to make big impacts at their new clubs. Singapore international duo Izwan Mahbud and M Anumanthan add strength in depth for the Sailors, whose packed season will mean that they have to rotate the squad.
For Albirex, midfielder Masahiro Sugita caught the eye during the Community Shield and the former Japan youth international looks set to be a key figure for them. At Balestier, Kondo displayed his class last season and will aim to do the same for the Tigers, while Delwinder Singh looks to be a solid addition at the back.
At Geylang, Šime Žužul will shoulder the goalscoring burden. The Croatian striker enjoyed a superb 2021 personally with 15 goals in 21 games and will have to fill the void left by both Amy Recha and Matheus Moresche. Takahiro Tezuka will be an important addition in the middle of the park with his technical ability, especially at set-pieces.
Kristijan Krajček has moved to Hougang after three solid seasons at Balestier and together with Moritz, will be expected to supply Amy Recha and Pedro Bortoluzo in a new-look attack. While Tampines have retained the core of their side, Shuya Yamashita will be a stabilising presence at the back and a genuine threat at the other end at set-pieces, and Ong Yu En has the opportunity to build on a stellar 2021 campaign after coming in from Albirex.
Mirko Sugic is a bit of an unknown quantity but the midfielder, who comes on the recommendation of club legend Dragan Talajic, is set to add steel to the Tanjong Pagar engine room. Fellow new arrival Aqhari Abdullah is an experienced and versatile operator, while Khairul Nizam augments their attacking options.
Finally, Zikos Chua will provide a different option upfront for the Young Lions, who can also expect to be able to call upon the likes of Harith Kanadi at some point during the season.
Who do you think will be the signing of 2022? We can’t wait for the season to get underway!