CERES-La Salle has acquired Azkals midfielder Martin Steuble to boost the already formidable squad ahead of major tournaments this year.
Ceres manager Ali Go confirmed the development on Wednesday after the draw for the Philippine Football Federation-Smart National Club Championship that kicks off on Thursday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Go tried to play down the latest major signing, mentioning the Filipino-Swiss Steuble last among the new names in the squad this year that include former Global FC defender Val Kama of Nigeria as well as fit-again Paul Mulders and Angelo Marasigan.But there’s no denying the caliber that Steuble is bringing to Ceres, which added a handful of big names to the fold last year in, among others, national team standouts Manny Ott, Patrick Reichelt, Jeffrey Christiaens, and Juani Guirado, who have all been instrumental to the squad’s title runs in the United Football League Division 2 and UFL’s Football Alliance League Cup.
The 26-year-old Steuble provides the team with toughness, stability, and versatility in the midfield and wing positions.
Go said Steuble, who played briefly for Major League Soccer side Sporting Kansas City, is set to arrive in the country in the next few days and could make his debut in the National Club Championship, where Ceres is the back-to-back champion.
The newly promoted UFL Division 1 side opens its title defense against Kaya FC on Thursday at 7 p.m. Both teams are in a strong Group A with fellow UFL teams Loyola Meralco and Laos FC.
The Sparks and Laos face off earlier at 4 o’clock.
“It’s a tough group,” Go said. “Everyone has a chance to win the group and we can end up in fourth place, so we can’t afford to relax.”
Global was drawn in Group B with Stallion FC, and two non-UFL squads Erco FC of Visayas, and the lone Mindanao representative in M’Lang FC.
“The draw was quite kind to us,” Global coach Leigh Manson said. “It will be interesting to play these clubs that we haven’t played. We have to treat each team with respect.”
“But we expect to win every game, win the group, go the semifinals, and go to the final,” the Scottish mentor added.
Global will gain a boost from former national team member Ray Jonsson, who has been signed along with Mexican and Japanese defenders. The team, though, will be without Azkals left-back Daisuke Sato, who has been ruled out due to a hamstring injury.
The champion will earn the top prize of P150,000, while the runner-up gets P75,000, and the third and fourth placers P50,000 and P25,000, respectively, according to Smart Sports marketing manager Epok Quimpo.