The Singapore Premier League’s moneybags are at it again.
On 8 February, the Lion City Sailors announced that they have added UEFA Champions League (UCL) experience to their squad with the signing of 29-year-old Belgian winger Maxime Lestienne.
The move comes as the Sailors ramp up preparations ahead of the 2022 season that will see them defend its Singapore Premier League (SPL) title and make its debut in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League (ACL).
The 1.77m left-footed wide player joins from Belgian top-tier side Standard Liege on a free transfer.
He joins the club on a two-year deal.
Lestienne is expected to arrive in Singapore prior to the opening of the domestic football season on 19 February when the Sailors face Albirex Niigata in the AIA Community Shield.
Part of PSV Eindhoven’s 2015/16 UCL squad that fell at the Round of 16 to eventual finalists, Atletico Madrid, he has a record of 29 appearances and six goals in UEFA’s second tier regional competition, the Europa League, with Standard and fellow Belgian side Club Brugge.
“The Sailors’ vision of building a strong football culture in a country like Singapore is a project that really excites me.
“The club’s commitment to youth development and improving football capabilities only adds to the allure of its drive for success on the pitch,” said Lestienne, who is part of Belgium’s Golden Generation of players and has been called up to the national team on several occasions, but has yet to receive a senior cap.
“I can’t wait to get started with the Sailors, especially as the club competes for the first time in Asia’s Champions League.”
Head Coach Kim Do-hoon believes that Lestienne will be the final piece of his Sailors puzzle, as he looks to build on a team that was crowned SPL champions in dramatic fashion on the last day of the season in 2021.
“Maxime will give us added quality in the attacking third with his technical ability, and he will help take us to the next level as we move towards being competitive against the best clubs in Asia at the ACL,” he said.
Sailors Chief Executive Chew Chun-Liang believes that with the club’s final foreign player on board, there will be much to look forward to in the 2022 season.
“It is important that we continue to bring in top-quality players like Maxime, Pedro Henrique and Shin-wook to boost our domestic and regional ambitions, while also continuing to deliver excellence and excitement to the Singapore football fraternity,” he said.
“Their presence will rub off on local players as well, serving both as an inspiration and helping raise professional standards at the club.
“We will continue to match such improvements in our off-the-field efforts as well as the Sailors drive towards our vision in what promises to be an exciting 2022.”
MAIN PHOTO: Lion City Sailors