Liridon Krasniqi who had represented Kedah is now without a club. - NSTP/SADDAM YUSOFF

KUALA LUMPUR: Former Kedah attacking midfielder Liridon Krasniqi, a Kosovo Albanian, and Kuala Lumpur’s sensational Brazilian striker Guilherme De Paula may possibly be playing for Harimau Malaya as naturalised citizens.

This was confirmed by Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) deputy president, Datuk Mohd Yusoff Mahadi, who is also chairman of the national football governing body’s Naturalisation Programme Committee.

Mohd Yusoff said although these two players could not yet fully meet the conditions to be naturalised players, efforts towards that were being made while both players had reacted positively to the idea.

“We are looking at a number of players, firstly Lee Tuck (Terengganu FC midfielder), a heritage player (under FIFA’s ruling due to his Malaysian maternal grandmother), besides Liridon (Krasniqi) and De Paula.

“We have been communicating with them. They seemed to be interested but we have not met up yet.

“As chairman of the committee, I will try to meet with all these players soonest possible to know their true feelings and gauge their sincerity about playing for Malaysia,” he told Bernama.

The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) rules state that a football player can represent another country before the age of 21 or above this age limit, he is allowed to represent another country on the condition he has not represented his country of origin.

However, Krasniqi and De Paula are not yet qualified to be Malaysia’s naturalised players as they need to play for another season, having played in the Malaysian League competition for four seasons.

Krasniqi’s contract with Kedah will not be extended for next season, so the Yugoslavian-born player, 26, is free to play for any other team in the league which are keen to secure his services.​​​​​​​

Mohd Yusoff said the approach of bringing in naturalised players into the national squad was part of FAM’s short-term plan to bolster the squad and improve quality.

Kuala Lumpur’s Guilherme De Paula is one of the most exciting forward playing in the Super League. -NSTP/MOHAMAD SHAHRIL BADRI SAALI

“If we place our hopes on the local players available...logically in our league, it’s difficult to find good local strikers. So, to improve our national squad’s performance, we have no choice but to consider bringing in naturalised players into the team.

“We have three plans, namely short-term, middle-term and long-term. For now, we want to focus on the short-term plan…so the two players in our radar for naturalisation are required in this plan,” he said.

However, Mohd Yusoff stressed that this approach was not to deprive local players of the opportunity to be in the national squad, but to elicit competitiveness and spur the local players to perform well, thus creating a strong, solid team.

“We want the national squad to be strong in every position. We don’t want all naturalised players for the team but in some positions, we need them.

“We need good strikers, midfielders and back players. Good wingers will be a bonus and consequently, we will see a different team. They (naturalised players) will be the additional input to a great team,” he said.

For the record, Gambian-born Mohamadou Sumareh who plays for Pahang, is Malaysia’s first naturalised football player who was enlisted ​​​​​​​by national chief coach Tan Cheng Hoe into the team who were runners-up in the finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 recently.-- Bernama