The goalkeeper will be donning Perak’s kit for the 2021 season after late-season heroics in the 2020 season made him a top target for teams.
The former Arsenal keeper Martinez was a huge success for the Gunners towards the backend of the 2019/20 English football season when he step in for the injured Bernd Leno and eventually putting in stellar performances to help Mikel Arteta’s side in lifting the FA Cup.
Starved for game time prior to that, the opportunity to play week in week out made Martinez hungry for more and with his stock at an all-time high, decided to leave Arsenal for Aston Villa. A scenario that isn’t unlike what young Azri Ghani is experiencing by making the move from Kedah to Perak for the 2021 M-League season.
The 21-year-old Azri had been warming the bench for large parts of the season behind Ifwat Akmal and Shahril Saari but found himself given an opportunity in the game against Sabah with just three matches remaining of the Super League season. He kept a clean sheet in that game and the rest was history.
Aidil Sharin continued to keep his faith in Azri for the remainder of the season after the Malaysian Under-23 international showed that he wasn’t ring-rusty at all, more than proving that he is worthy of a prolonged run in the first team. His excellent display made other teams sit up and take notice, with offers coming in thick and fast for his services in 2021.
Kedah tried to keep Azri on the books for another season but without the promise of game time, the Kelantan-born custodian opted to move to another northern club in Perak, citing a bigger opportunity to be selected and feature for the first team.
“Why I chose Perak is because I see them as a strong team in the league that can compete with the likes of Kedah, Johor Darul Ta’zim and Selangor. Kedah are a great team but I have to admit that the competition to start was difficult and I only got my chance towards the end of the season.
“Which is why I feel this is the right time for me to join Perak and hopefully I will get a chance to improve and show my potential in helping the team to do well in the Sper League,” said Azri in an interview with Malaysian Football League.
It’s not as if Azri will be going over to Perak and become first-choice without a fight. Hafizul Hakim is the current incumbent at the Bos Gaurus and has managed to make his own comeback from a long layoff towards the end of last season.
Prior to Hafizul’s return, Mehmet Durakovic was relying on the duo of Khairul Amri Salehuddin and Nasrullah Aziz with neither showing enough to warrant Perak not looking for alternative options. One of the two is expected to be dropped to accommodate Azri but more than most, the new arrival might make his big battle with Hafizul for Perak’s starting keeper berth one to watch in the coming season.