JDT's Safiq Rahim and Aidil Zafuan retire from Malaysia team

With the Suzuki Cup only four months away, Malaysia captain Safiq Rahim has announced his immediate retirement at the age of just 29.

And his Johor Darul Ta'zim teammate Aidil Zafuan, 28, who led the Malaysians in Safiq's absence on their recent Oceania tour, has quit as well.

The news is a double blow for Malaysia head coach Ong Kim Swee who is rebuilding the national squad after a disastrous AFC World Cup qualifying campaign that saw a record 10-0 defeat to United Arab Emirates and two 6-0 losses to Palestine last year.

Under the heading 'The Time Has Come', key midfielder Safiq explained his decision on the Southern Tigers Facebook page.

"The time has come for me to retire from the national team and give opportunities to other players to carry on my roles," said Safiq, who has earned 66 international caps.

"The achievements accomplished such as helping the Under-23 national team win gold at the 2009 SEA Games and becoming the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup [champions] with the senior team will surely inspire the next generations of footballers to give more positive results to the country."

Central defender Zafuan, who has 68 senior caps since 2007, also explained that he wanted younger players to step up in his absence.

"I would also like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation and say 'thank you' to all local football fans, the national coaches and the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) management for supporting my career throughout my time with the national team."

In recent months, JDT officials and coach Ong have clashed in club-versus-country rows. Johor have claimed that players have returned from international duty in poor physical condition.

Eleven JDT players were part of the most recent Malaysian squad that played matches against Papua-New Guinea, New Caledonia and Fiji on last month's Oceania tour.

Sources tell ESPN FC that more JDT players are contemplating their international futures, including goalkeeper Izham Tamizi.

Safiq is considered Malaysia's best player because of his ability from set pieces and his leadership qualities. He was top scorer in the 2014 Suzuki Cup when Malaysia knocked out Singapore at the Sports Hub on the way to the final, with six goals and has 16 in total in his international career.

Malaysia's next national team games are likely to come in September, including a friendly against Indonesia in Jakarta.