Rookie Shakir Ali has certainly earned his stripes with Negeri Sembilan.
Head coach Mohd Azraai Khor Abdullah said the former Harimau Muda striker has recovered his form after failing to make the grade with former team Kedah last season.
“Shakir has been impressive. He was lost with his former team and barely started any matches. Now he is beginning to show his true colours,” said Azraai.
Shakir proved his mettle when he scored both goals in their 2-0 win over Johor FC in Pasir Gudang last week.
Hotshot : Shakir Ali scored both goals in Negeri Sembilan’s win over Johor FC last week.
Azraai said Shakir had the potential to be a top notch goal-getter and needed to play more matches.
“For many players in the Negeri squad, including Shakir, it is a learning curve for them,” said Azraai.
Foreign striker Jean-Emmanuel Effa Owona is the leading hitman for the Deer with four goals.
Azraai also picked lanky defender G. Mahathevan as another rising star in the Negeri squad.
The 22-year-old former PKNS FC player merely warmed the Negeri bench last season. He could not break into the squad, which featured an array of stars like national centreback Mohd Aidil Zafuan and leftback Irwan Fadli Idyus.
However, the duo’s departure to Premier League side Armed Forces has given Mahathevan the breakthrough he needed to win a place in the starting line-up this season.
“I am pleased with Mahathevan’s contribution. He has to work harder as there is plenty of room for improvement,” said Azraai, who is likely to get a second foreign player soon.