By Gabriel Tan
Both players were key members of the side that had an impressive maiden campaign in Malaysian football last year, finishing runners-up in the Malaysia Super League and reaching the semi-finals of the Malaysia Cup.
The pair continued their form in the AFF Suzuki Cup, where they played pivotal roles in Singapore winning the title for a record fourth time, and their impressive displays caught the eyes of several Thai sides after the Lions beat Thailand in the two-legged final.
BEC Tero Sasana, who finished third in the Premier League in 2012, were one of just four clubs who were said to be interested in Baihakki, while Bangkok Glass expressed a keen interest in signing both players.
Although it initially seemed as though the duo would be allowed to pursue the opportunity of playing abroad if an offer did come in, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) have now confirmed Shahril and Baihakki will be made to honour the one-year deals they signed with the LIONSXII.
"During the discussion we had with the player's [Shahril's] agent today [Monday], we explained to him that we have a young LIONSXII team which need the experience and leadership of the two senior players in the upcoming season," said an FAS spokesman.
"At the same time, we also conveyed our concerns that the loss of two senior players could affect the coach's ability to field a full team in the away matches of the MSL, since 13 players in the 26-man squad will be serving fulltime national service.
"Moreover, given the registration deadline for the MSL 2013 season has passed, we will not be able to sign any replacements of similar quality before the next transfer window in April."
With the new-look LIONSXII side expected to form the bulk of the Singapore Under-23 team that will be challenging for gold at the 2013 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, coach V. Sundramoorthy was adamant Shahril and Baihakki would play a key role in helping to nurture and guide the younger players.
"Shahril and Bai are the most experienced players in the LIONSXII squad for 2013," he said. "I need their experience and leadership to guide and mentor the younger players in the team - most of whom will be representing Singapore in the SEA Games later in the year.
"They have signed a professional contract and I believe that they will fulfil the contractual obligations and remain committed to the team.
"I look forward to their contributions in the new season."
After establishing themselves as two of the region's finest players during their time in the Great Eastern-YEO's S.League, Shahril and Baihakki both earned a move to Indonesia before returning to play for the LIONSXII at the start of last season.