Never say never, yet it’s highly unlikely that anyone will match the achievements of Thai legend Kiatisuk  “Zico” Senamuang as a player and coach at the AFF Suzuki Cup.

Having played in three winning sides at the ASEAN Football Championship, he became the first person to win the tournament as a player and a coach when he led Thailand to victory in 2014.

And then as an encore, he repeated the feat in 2016 when the War Elephants lifted the AFF Suzuki Cup for a record fifth time.

Age: 44
Clubs: Krung Thai Bank, Rajpracha, Royal Thai Police, Perlis, Huddersfield Town, Singapore Armed Forces, Hoang Anh Gia Lai
International appearances (Goals): 134 (71)
AFF Suzuki Cup appearances: 2007, 2002, 2000, 1996
AFF Suzuki Cup Champion: 2002, 2000, 1996
AFF Suzuki Cup Champion (as coach): 2016, 2014

From player to coach

Idolised in his playing days, Kiatisuk settled quickly into life as a coach and was soon receiving similar adulation from fans in his homeland.

A talismanic presence in the dressing room, at the training field and on the touchline, Kiatisuk moulded a group of largely under-23 players into kings of ASEAN football in 2014.

The squad was even stronger in 2016 and Kiatisuk further increased his status by guiding the attack-minded side to a successful title defence.

Kiatisuk, the most successful player of his generation with more than 100 caps and over 70 goals to his credit, played in three winning sides at the ASEAN Football Championship (in 1996 when he scored the winner against Malaysia, 2000 and 2002).

He was team captain when Thailand lifted the title in 2002 with victory over Indonesia in a penalty shootout and 12 years on was team coach when the national team broke their trophy drought.

Success and key decisions

Kiatisuk had long been tipped as a future national coach and his ascension came after he led the under-23 side to victory in 2013 SEA Games and fourth spot at the Asian Games in Korea in September, 2014.

It was that run in Incheon, when Thailand beat China and Jordan on their way to a semi-final against hosts Korea Republic, that saw Thai fans rally behind coach and players.

At first reluctant to take on the coaching job for the AFF Suzuki Cup, Kiatisuk relented on the condition that he had total control of what players to bring into the squad.

He raised some eyebrows by leaving out legendary midfielder Datsakorn Thonglao and resisting the temptation to ask Spanish La Liga side UD Almeria to release striker Teerasil Dangda, top scorer at the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup, for the tournament.

But he received backing for his approach from the vast majority of Thai fans and the youngsters repaid the faith Kiatisuk put in them by playing breathtaking football on their way to overall victory.

Retaining the title

With Teerasil back in a squad further bolstered by the inclusion of fellow striker Siroch Chatthong and marauding right back Tristan Do, Thailand under Kiatisuk were strong favourites to retain their title in 2016.

A 100 per cent record at the group stage followed by a semi-final destruction of Myanmar reinforced that view although Kiatisuk had to draw on his renowned leadership skills to lift the side after they lost the first leg of the final 2-1 away to Indonesia.

Normal service was resumed at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok and two goals from Siroch handed Kiatisuk a second title as coach to add to his three as a player, an amazing record that underscores his reputation as an icon of football in the region.

Photos: Getty Images