Kuala Lumpur ready to unleash Guilherme, target top five in MSL
Newly promoted Kuala Lumpur have set a target of finishing in the top five of the 2018 Malaysia Super League (MSL), with former Selangor striker Guilherme predicted to be fighting for Golden Boot honours.
The former giants of Malaysian football enjoyed a resurgence last season to win the second-tier Premier League, as Guilherme netted 27 goals in 22 matches to top the scoring charts.
Ex-Timor-Leste coach Fabio Magrao, who helped Kuala Lumpur edge Terengganu and PKNP in a tight title race last season, says Guilherme's MSL experience will be invaluable.
"Guilherme did a fantastic job last year... he's very happy here," Magrao told ESPN FC. "He's signed a contract for two more years so I hope he can do the same thing this year that he did last year.
"I hope he can have another great season and fight for top scorer also."
Guilherme, Malaysia Cup winner in 2015, will be one of three Brazilians in the Kuala Lumpur squad for 2018, alongside midfielder Paulo Josue and new recruit Juninho, who played with Selangor in 2014.
The 28-year-old earned 10 caps for Timor-Leste until the AFC deemed him and 11 other Brazilian-born players ineligible to play for the former Portuguese colony.
Meanwhile, Uzkbekistan defender Boburjon Akbarov, who joined the club for the 2017 season, has agreed to stay for the upcoming campaign to complete Kuala Lumpur's four import spots.
"It's a new challenge, and it will be tough for us, but we are a strong team so we hope it will be a great season," Magrao said.
"Football is sometimes difficult to tell before the games, but with our team, with hard work and teamwork, I think we can fight for the top five.
"We know we have to respect other teams, and we know it will be tough, but we have to prepare for that."
After cutting his teeth at famous Brazilian club Flamengo, former central midfielder Magrao carved out a successful career in Asia, including stints in United Arab Emirates and Thailand.
In the Thai Premier League, he played with Bangkok Glass (2010) and Sisaket FC (2011).
As a coach, he helped Timor-Leste achieve some upsets in their 2018 AFC World Cup qualifying campaign, including an eye-catching 1-1 draw with Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur in June 2015.
But his happiest memories are consecutive victories in that same campaign over Mongolia, with their Brazilian-born contingent playing a starring role.
"The first match we had against Mongolia [in March 2015] we beat them 4-1. Then, with the temperature at below 20 [degrees Celsius] we beat them 1-0 away [in Ulan Bator five days later]. It was fantastic to beat them in World Cup qualifying," Magrao said.
"Timor-Leste is where I made my name as a coach in Asia, so I'm very grateful to them.
"I miss them, but I keep in contact with them and send my regards all the time with them. But that's the past so now I look forward to future with Kuala Lumpur. So far, I'm enjoying my time here."
Kuala Lumpur will be back in the MSL for the first time in six years, having dropped to the third tier in 2014.
They were Malaysian champions in 1986 and 1988, and won three consecutive Malaysia Cups between 1987 and 1989.
Their previous coaches include Josef Venglos, Ken Shellito and the iconic Chow Kwai Lam, so Magrao will be looking to help bring back their glory days.
Jason Dasey is ESPN FC Senior Editor in Singapore. Formerly Asian editor of FourFourTwo, he was also a CNN and BBC broadcaster. Twitter: @JasonDasey.