Singapore defender Madhu Mohana joins Negeri Sembilan in MSL
Defender Madhu Mohana has signed a one-year deal with Malaysia Super League (MSL) side Negeri Sembilan as the exodus of Singapore internationals from the S.League gathers pace.
The centre-back or full-back will cross swords with teammates like Hariss Harun (Johor Darul Ta'zim) and Safuwan Baharudin (Pahang).
With Lions No. 1 Hassan Sunny joining Thai side Army United for a second time, four national players will ply their trade overseas in 2018. Others, including Faris Ramli (linked to Selangor), likely to join them.
Madhu had a solid 2017 season with Tampines Rovers, playing 17 out of 24 games as the Stags finished second with the second-best defensive record in the league. Jurgen Raab's side conceded 20 goals in 24 league matches -- just four more than champions Albirex Niigata (S).
While this is Madhu's first overseas stint, he is no stranger to playing across the Causeway as he was a prominent member of the LionsXII squad who participated in Malaysian competitions from 2012 and 2015.
The all-Singaporean team won the MSL in 2013 and the Malaysia FA Cup in 2015, before being disbanded.
Equally comfortable at right back or at the heart of defence, the 1.83 metre Madhu has 29 Singapore caps, starting the last six games under V. Sundramoorthy.
On top of a larger pay cheque, the 26-year-old will be provided with a car and accommodation by the Seremban-based club.
It will also be a step up from playing in front of sparse crowds in Singapore to walking out in the 45,000-capacity Tuanku Abdul Rahman Stadium. At the vast arena in Paroi, Negeri players traditionally celebrate with the home support in front of the Ultras N9 with the Viking Clap.
"I'm happy to agree terms with Negeri, a team with a history of creating surprises, and one that won the Malaysia Cup in 2009 and 2011," he told the Straits Times.
"Even though Negeri just got promoted back to the MSL, we will do all we can to go as far as possible in every competition we play.
"I remember the fierce rivalry between Malaysian teams and I'm excited to start this new journey and prove myself in a foreign league."
Negeri are one of the four teams to be promoted to the MSL for 2018, along with Kuala Lumpur FA, Terengganu FA and PKNP.
Malaysia Premier League (MPL) champions Kuala Lumpur and runners-up Terengganu FA made it on merit, while the other two slots opened up due to unusual circumstances.
2017 MSL second runners-up Felda United went down after failing to meet stringent club licensing rules, while T-Team won't not be allowed to compete in the same division as they have applied to become an official feeder club to newly promoted Terengganu.
The two teams join the originally relegated Penang and Sarawak in the second division.
Third-placed PKNP and fifth-placed Negeri will fill the void in the 12-team league.
Fourth-placed JDT II were ineligible for promotion as they were the official feeder team to JDT.
Kenneth Tan is a Singapore-based football writer on S.League and AFC Cup for ESPN FC and FourFourTwo. Twitter: @KennerveT