KOTA KINABALU: It is one up for the Rhinos ahead of their clash against Felda United on Friday as Zaykiel Leong’s imminent return would surely be a major boost to the team!
The 28-year-old striker is believed to be in the final stage of negotiations with the Sabah FA, after he declared that he is now ready to don the Rhinos’ colours once again.
In fact, the New Sabah Times Sport understands that it is now only a matter of time before both parties put pen to paper.
“I am now ready and willing to play for the State,” said Zaykiel.
Earlier this season, Zaykiel decided to stay away from the team despite being offered a contract.
This was due to his work commitment.
But now that is a thing of the past as Zaykiel is willing to sort that out with his employer as well as the FA.
He, however, refused to go into detail regarding his talk with the Sabah FA, saying “it is an ongoing process.”
Team manager Rahman Zakaria was also tight lipped when asked to comment on the development of the talk.
He said it is still not the right time to reveal anything just yet.
Zaykiel is seen as the missing link in the Rhinos’ squad, who lost two top strikers – Sylvester Sindeh and Bobby Gonzales early this season.
Zainizam Marjan, Zaykiel’s former striking partner in the Reserve League about nine years ago, is the only experienced striker in the squad, backed up by several exciting but untested youngsters such as Alto Linus and Azrul Ejati Damsah.
Rahman Zakaria together with Chief Coach Wathiq Naji Jasim agreed that Zaykiel will give the squad a boost upfront.
“Zaykiel will certainly add experience to the squad which we need … he was our key player during his previous stint (with Sabah),”said Rahman.
“I believe his presence will help our attack especially after we lost Sylvester.
“Now that he is willing to meet us and wanting to play for the State is a good development for the team,” he added.
As for coach Wathiq, he said Zaykiel’s presence in the squad would give him more options.
“Maybe goals will start coming if he is in the team,” Wathiq said jokingly.
Zaykiel was part of the State Reserve League squad that won the President’s Cup in 1999, although he did not finish the season to further his studies in pharmacy.
He then made a return to the team in 2003 until 2005 before quitting professional football.
Zaykiel was also an influential player for Beverly FC when the club side emerged runners-up in the FAM Cup in 2007.