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 By Nicolas Anil

Safee Sali backs Luciano Figueroa to succeed as JDT sporting director

The return of Luciano Figueroa to Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) in a new role as Sporting Director has received the stamp of approval from Malaysia's ex-JDT striker Safee Sali.

The move follows in the footsteps of European powerhouses Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Real Madrid, who all turned to former players to reinvigorate the club.

Argentina's Figueroa, who was a star striker for JDT in 2014-2015, is to focus on the club's first team affairs and also to assist head coach Ulisses Morais as Sports Director.

His predecessor Alistair Edwards has been reassigned as technical director after the internal restructuring was announced on Saturday.

Safee, who moved to PKNS FC at the end of last season, praised JDT's vision in bringing the 2004 Olympic gold medallist back to Malaysia.

JDT striker Safee Sali
Safee Sali played four years with JDT, scoring seven goals in 36 MSL games.

"The club has made the right choice getting Luciano on board," Safee, who played alongside Figueroa in the AFC Cup-winning season of 2015, told ESPN FC.

"He is an extraordinary character on and off the pitch, and now he has the chance to be an influential figure to the players. What I mean by extraordinary is he has the fighting spirit and desire to do well in anything given to him.

"He is a great man off the pitch too. He's a fan favourite, and understands the club well.

"As a player, he had a great relationship with his teammates and it will be the same now. His work ethics will surely rub off on the team.

"I believe it's always an advantage to work with former players as the club's motives and vision will be the same."

Even after retiring at the end of the 2015 season, the 36-year-old has often been seen at JDT matches, home or away.

One of Figueroa's priorities will be to help JDT qualify for the AFC Champions League, given their dominance of domestic competitions, having won the last four MSL titles.

They will now focus on lifting the 2017 Malaysia Cup, having set up a quarterfinal meeting with Melaka United after last Saturday's 3-1 victory over Selangor.

Nicolas Anil is a former Malay Mail and Malaysia editor/writer who appears on BFM Radio as a football analyst. Twitter: @nicolas_anil.


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