Ahead of the fourth season of the cash-rich league both franchises have continued their policy of keeping faith with local youngsters…
FC Goa who finished at the bottom of the Indian Super League (ISL) table following a poor performance under head coach Zico in the last season have roped in Spanish coach Sergio Lobera Rodriguez after parting ways with the Brazilian legend. The Goan franchise has also signed the most experienced Goan coach Derrick Pereira as his assistant and head of youth development. They have also made sure that the fans favourite Mandar Rao Desai and goalkeeper Laximant Kattimani stay with the club by retaining them.
The FCG management have picked seven local players out of 13 at the draft that took place in Mumbai on last Sunday. While they have also brought back players like Narayan Das and Pronoy Halder who have played earlier for the Goan franchise. Looking at their picks from the draft, anyone can easily say that this is one of the best rosters of domestic players for the Gaurs with an average age of just 24.
The former finalists FC Goa have spent the least amount amongst the nine ISL franchises which is around ₹2.59 crore to pick 13 players in the draft. Their first two picks were former stars Das and Halder who cost them around ₹1.16 crore. Young defender Chinglensana Singh was their third pick in the draft. While they also picked the creative midfielder Brandon Fernandes who had a very successful spell with I-League club Churchill Brothers.
Later they went on to sign local talents like Seriton Fernandes, Pratesh Shirodkar, Anthony De Souza, Jovel Martins. They also signed one of the most talented centre-backs Mohammad Ali. Ali was part of the recently promoted I-League Second Division club NEROCA FC. They have also added two more keepers from the draft making it all Indian custodians for the Gaurs. Naveen Kumar who caught the eye with his brilliant performance with Churchill in the I-League was FCG’s ninth round pick, while former Salgaocar custodian Bruno Colaco was their last round pick.
The 19-year-old Amey Ranawade and Mahammed Yasir were picked in the 12th and 14th round respectively by the assistant coach Pereira as their youth development players. While they have also signed some local talents from the state which include the U-18 I-League’s highest scorer Liston Colaco, Princeton Rebello who has been recently called up for the India U-19 camp and Hayden Fernandes.
The Gaurs’ retained star Mandar Rao Desai
Apart from these, the management has signed three foreign players till now. The Portuguese defender Bruno Pinheiro was their first signing and has played with them earlier in the inaugural season and was one of the most loved players by the fans due to his brilliant performances. The Spanish winger Manuel Arana Rodriguez was their second signing of the season. Arana has played more than 200 games in the top divisions of Spain. The 32-year old is known for his pace on the wings, while he is also known to score some brilliant goals.
Later they signed another Spanish player Ferran Corominas, commonly known as a “Coro”. The forward was part of Spanish club RCD Espanyol who won the Copa del Rey in 2005/06 and finished runners-up in UEFA Cup in 2006/07. He has also played more than 250 games in the Spanish top division.
TACTICAL SYSTEM (PROBABLE)
The rejigged FC Goa will have to forget last season’s performance and make a new start to their campaign. With Zico gone, FCG will be looking to adopt the “tiki-taka” style of play under Spanish coach Lobera. The Spaniard believes in possession football along with a stylish and attractive style of play. He has huge experience of managing in the Spanish second and third division and with that experience; he can turn round the fortunes of the Goan club.
FCG might play more possession football as the head coach Lobero has been with Barcelona as an assistant and his approach is naturally influenced by that of the Blaugrana.
This is how FC Goa looking to be shaping up right now
The Goans’ squad is still incomplete but players such as Das, Halder and Rao Desai will definitely find a place in the starting XI. Kattimani will be given the responsibility to guard the goal; Das will start in his preferred position of left-back. Pinheiro will be given the duty of centre-back while we might see Ali and Chinglensana fighting for the other position. The club has not yet found anyone who can fill the right-back slot but as of now, Seriton can be easily given the task of a wing-back.
Halder will occupy the place of a defensive midfielder in a 4-1-3-2 formation. Rao Desai and newly signed Spanish winger Arana will be in charge of the left and the right wing respectively, while as per the current squad Brandon will be the service provider for both from the centre.
FCG are expected to sign another three strikers, so it will be hard for Lobero to field a player from the current squad to accompany Coro up front. However, Liston Colaco who has been signed by them as a youth development player can be used in the absence of any other strikers.
Players like Anthony, Shirodkar and Naveen will strengthen the bench for the Gaurs, while youth development players like Hayden Fernandes, Ranawade and Yasir can be useful to replace their respective positions. Three defenders, a midfielder and three forwards are yet to be signed by the Goan club. Some strong signings in these positions will definitely make the Goan squad strong enough to take on any opposition in the upcoming season.
The Highlanders as they are popularly known remain one of the two teams who are yet to make it to the playoffs of the ISL. Thus the domestic player draft on Sunday was a vital exercise for the John Abraham owned side to showcase their intent for this season.
Newly appointed coach Joao Carlos Pires de Deus was ably assisted by club think tank led by Siddhant Makkar. NorthEast United had earlier retained popular choice keeper TP Rehnesh and a national team regular Rowlin Borges.
Having already retained two players, NEUFC were only able to pick players from the third round of the draft onwards. Their first pick was to welcome back one of the youngsters from Assam who has stormed into the national scene Holicharan Narzary. The former Pailan Arrows attacker has earlier plied his trade in FC Goa and will be in his second season for the Guwahati based team. He can double up as a striker as well as a pacey winger.
After an unsuccessful instant trade attempt with Delhi Dynamos to secure Sena Ralte, the de Deus coached side chose to pick experienced full-back Nirmal Chettri. The former East Bengal defender will add much-needed experience to the youthful side.
Coach De Deus picked Narzary to lead NEUFC’s attack
Midfield maestro Lalrindika Ralte was their next choice, the former Red and Gold medio will be most likely to lead the midfield proceedings for the side. Experienced defender Robert was snapped up next. The well-travelled defender has been a part of Churchill and East Bengal in the I-league before.
NEUFC then chose to pick some familiar faces as midfielder Seminlen Doungel and defender Raegan Singh had a reunion with their former side. With Rehnesh already in the squad, the John Abraham backed side chose to bolster their bench by signing custodian Ravi Kumar.
Youngster Gursimrat Gill who had earlier played for Bengaluru FC and who has been highly rated as one of the top performing developmental players will be under the tutelage of Portuguese coach De Deus along with another exciting youngster from Kerala Abdul Hakku, a former Shivajians and Fateh Hyderabad player.
Midfielder duo Malenmgamba Metei and Fanai Lalrempuia will be seen playing for NEUFC this season. Metei had a great outing with 2nd Div champions Neroca FC recently while Lalrempuia will be in the Highlanders squad for the second season after a loan to Minerva FC.
Last few picks of the De Deus led-side were two newbies Gurpreet Singh and Sushil Metei. Both the players will be expected to soak in the experience of being in ISL, Metei is a developmental player having earlier played for Royal Wahingdoh FC in Shillong league.
TACTICAL SYSTEM (PROBABLE)
It will be interesting to see how ISL debutant coach De Dues will set the team with the players available. As of the current picks, one can be certain that the core backbone of the team will be made up by the likes of TP Rehnesh, Nirmal Chhetri, Rowlin Borges and Holicharan Narzary.
Nirmal who will be providing the stability and experience in the defence will get able assistance from young talents like Gursimrat Gill, Abdul Hakku. Full backs Robert and Raegan Singh are now seasoned campaigners, they have the ability to run down the flanks and cover bases which make NEUFC back four a well-balanced one.
Midfielders Rowlin Borges and Lalrempuia are no newbies at the Highlanders. The duo is once again reunited after the draft pick and their familiarity may come in handy. Wingers Malenmgamba and Sushil will play a vital role to keep feeding the strikers. Popular Didika will be handy with his experience and expertise with set piece situations.
Upfront for NEUFC will be two extremely talented players. Former Pailan Arrows product Holicharan Narzary has worked and been seasoned by coaches such as Armando Colaco, Nelo Vingada and now Stephen Constantine. Len Dongel was an instant hit in his first few matches at the Red and Gold brigade thanks to his raw pace and ball control.
Overall the picks by John Abraham backed side has been very sensible. Their main focus was to get back and retain familiar faces who are comfortable with the set up in Guwahati and have the ability to pull crowds for the home games.
Coach De Deus will have his task cut out to invest effectively in a foreign centre back and a striker as the team needs adding some strengths at both the end to put up a formidable challenge to their opponents in the fourth season.