The former India international was a fringe player for the Islanders last season.
East Bengal are set to snap up former Mumbai City FC midfielder Mohammed Rafique on a season-long deal, Khel Now has learnt. It is a sort of homecoming for the 27-year old midfielder who is a local boy.
Rafique spent his early days at Tollygunge Agragami and was later signed by Prayag United. Looking at his talent and maturity from a young age, East Bengal jumped into the fray and signed the youngster in 2014 and loaned him out to ATK, where he scored the penultimate goal in the final to seal the inaugural Indian Super League tile for the Kolkata outfit.
He then gradually started featuring for East Bengal and became a mainstay in midfield for the Red and Gold for several years. In this time he became a fan-favourite at the club.
Mohammed Rafique then joined Kerala Blasters on loan and featured for the South Indian club in the ISL 2015/16 season. The Tuskers reached the playoffs, where Rafique was an integral part of the side throughout the campaign. While the Blasters lost to his former side ATK on penalties in the final, Rafique scored the only goal within 19 minutes and also converted a penalty.
His back-to-back impressive performances in the I-League and also in the ISL helped him earn a spot in the India national team, where he made his debut against Laos in June 2016, in a 2019 AFC Cup qualification match. He scored his first goal for the Blue Tigers in the reverse fixture against the same opposition.
He continued to earn plaudits at East Bengal as he held his fort very well in the heart of midfield and also on the flanks. But, in 2018, he was back in the ISL again, this time for Mumbai City FC. The Islanders reached the playoffs that season and Rafique played his part as a squad player coming from the bench.
The 27-year old was looking to cement his place in the starting XI in the previous campaign for the Islanders, but again he dropped down the pecking order and only managed six starts, mostly playing as a right-back.
Rafique still has a lot of football left in him and therefore in search of more game-time, the midfielder has decided to reunite with East Bengal. The midfielder’s ability to play in several positions will come in handy for the Red and Gold, if the deal goes through.
East Bengal are on a transfer spree as they have already snapped up players like Balwant Singh, Sehnaj Singh, Novin Gurung, Rafique Ali Sardar, Cavin Lobo, Bikash Jairu, Sehnaj Singh and others. They also recently announced the signings of Mohamed Irshad, Keegan Pereira, Girik Khosla and Sankar Roy. In addition to all these players, the signing of Rafique will add more depth and dynamism to their squad for the upcoming season.