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 By Kenneth Tan

Singapore ace Shahdan Sulaiman has 'hunger' to succeed at Melaka in MSL

Jason Dasey speaks to Stanley Bernard to react to the 2018 AFC Cup draw and it's pairing for Home United and Tampines.

Singapore midfielder Shahdan Sulaiman believes he can take his game to a new level by joining Melaka United in the Malaysia Super League (MSL).

Shahdan follows compatriots Hariss Harun (Johor Darul Ta'zim), Safuwan Baharudin (Pahang FA) and Madhu Mohana (Negeri Sembilan) into the MSL for the 2018 season after sealing a season-long loan deal from S.League giant Tampines Rovers.

The move came as a surprise to many as the Hang Tuah side had trialed Singaporean pair Hafiz Sujad and Faris Ramli over the past week.

The duo made goalscoring appearances in the club's 6-0 friendly win over second-tier UKM FC last Friday, but Melaka decided to swoop for Shahdan instead as they prioritised a central midfielder over wingers.

The 29-year-old has proved his ability over the past few years, bossing the midfield alongside Hariss in Singapore's victorious 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup campaign, and he was also part of the LionsXII's 2015 Malaysia FA Cup-winning side.

Having hoped for a move abroad for several years, Shahdan is delighted that his dreams have finally become a reality.

"The hunger to play overseas and test my own abilities played a big part in this move," Shahdan told ESPN FC. "Everything happened so quickly, I didn't even know Hafiz was on trial until much later.

"At this age, I believe I'm ready to take my career to the next level, and I'm really excited to be challenging myself in a new environment now. I just want to take one thing at a time now, firstly to fight for a place in the starting eleven."

Shahdan is also keen to express his gratitude to Tampines, where he spent nine seasons across four separate stints.

"I had a lot of good times and matured as a player at this club," he said. "I'm also thankful to [chairman] Desmond [Ong] and coach Jurgen [Raab] because this wouldn't happen without their consent, so I wish them all the best for the 2018 S.League season."

Melaka have now filled their import quota for 2018, with Belarusian forward Yahor Zubovich also joining from FC Torpedo-BelAZ Zhodino.

Previously, it was confirmed that the club had signed French centre-back Steven Thicot and Portuguese midfielder Tiago Gomes to join South Korean midfielder Jeon Woo-Young.

Led by young Portuguese coach Eduardo Almeida, the Hang Tuah are targeting a top-five finish and at least one piece of silverware next year after finishing eighth in the MSL in 2017.

Kenneth Tan is a Singapore-based football writer on S.League and AFC Cup for ESPN FC and FourFourTwo. Twitter: @KennerveT

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