PETALING JAYA: The worst kept secret is out. Zainal Abidin Hassan is back in Selangor.
After weeks of speculation, Malaysia Cup champions Selangor have finally confirmed the appointment of their “old boy” as the new coach on Thursday.
The 54-year-old former international bade farewell to Pahang after guiding them to three titles in 2014 – Malaysia Cup, FA Cup and Charity Shield. This year, Pahang finished third in the Super League, and lost in the semi-finals of both the FA Cup and Malaysia Cup.
Zainal replaces another former Selangor star, Australian Mehmet Durakovic, who had his contract terminated despite leading the Red Giants to their long-awaited Malaysia Cup title last month – their 33rd in history.
Team manager Amirudin Shari said Selangor have hired Zainal on a two-year contract.
“We chose Zainal based on his vast coaching experience and the achievements he has had in the last 14 years,” said Amirudin.
“Zainal will commence his duties tomorrow (on Friday) and conduct the first training session on Jan 5.
“We hope his arrival will further lift the performance and ability of the squad as we face an even more challenging 2016 season.”
Zainal donned his home state colours on three successful spells – 1980-82, 1985-1990 and 1997-99 – when he helped the Red Giants to three league titles, four Malaysia Cups and two FA Cups.
During his stint with Selangor he scored 125 goals in 215 appearances and is hailed a legend by football fans.
Selangor have also made several changes to their backroom staff with former player K. Gunalan brought in to replace Anuar Abu Bakar as assistant coach.
Former goalkeeper Azlisham Ibrahim and Norhudahhiroshi Razak have been hired as the goalkeeping and fitness coach.
As for Durakovic, Amirudin said both parties parted ways on mutual consent and the former coach has already been compensated.
Amirudin added that Durakovic had rejected a new role offered to him.
“We wanted him to stay to help develop Selangor’s young talents but he has opted to rest and spend time with his family,” added Amirudin.
Selangor, who have confirmed the signing of Liberian striker Patrick Ronaldinho Wleh from PKNS FC on a one-year deal, are expected to sign a South American striker soon.