The clubs from the league interestingly share some similar traits with teams from Europe.
Indian Super League (ISL) teams are quite unique from one another. They differ in terms of their functioning, recruitment, playing style and more. These unique traits, however, could be well compared to teams from Europe.
Across Europe, several elite clubs function in similar ways and sometimes, they are seen to have peculiar similarities with how ISL clubs operate. The interesting elements found in the running of a top-level European club and an ISL outfit are exciting observations.
On that note, Khel Now takes a look at the clubs from the top league competition in India and the European club they closely resemble.
Mumbai City – Manchester City
Mumbai City and Manchester City are similar in the fact that both have the same owners. City Football Group, a company that administers football clubs all over the world, owns a majority stake in the ISL outfit.
The workforce behind the exceptional functioning of Manchester City has also helped MCFC, in terms of recruiting great players and ensuring smooth off-the-field operations. As a result, in the first full season under the new ownership, the Islanders secured first place in the league standings and also clinched the ISL title.
ATK Mohun Bagan – Real Madrid
ATK Mohun Bagan have a long list of exceptional talents, more so the Indians. There is a plethora of players who also represent the Indian national team. However, this comes in the backdrop of paying high wages, which is a given due to the quality of players.
ATKMB have one of the best depths in terms of squad in the ISL. This can be closely compared to the way Real Madrid are perceived. The La Liga giants are the first priority for any top player in Europe and their roster often has superstars playing. This is just like the case of the Mariners, who are slowly becoming the top choice for the most talented Indian footballers.
NorthEast United – AFC Ajax
NorthEast United finished third in the last season of the ISL, their highest-ever finish. The credit for their achievement goes to Khalid Jamil. The Indian tactcian steadied the ship after the abrupt dismissal of Gerard Nus, who was impressive in the early stages of the league.
The Highlanders are similar to Dutch giants AFC Ajax in many ways. Both teams rely largely on the exuberance of their young talents to create an impact in their respective leagues. Further, much like NEUFC’s brilliant wins over Mumbai City and ATKMB in the ISL 2020-21 league stages, the Eredivisie defending champions have also often held their own against heavyweight teams in the Champions League
FC Goa – Borussia Dortmund
FC Goa earned a spot in the group stages of the AFC Champions League after securing first position in the league standings during the 2019-20 term. However, their neighbouring rivals Mumbai City FC cherry-picked the best performers and recruited them to their ranks, including the coach Sergio Lobera.
Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga have seen Bayern Munich pick their best players just when the club came close to toppling their supremacy. Despite the loss of crucial talents, the Gaurs recruited well and impressed everyone in the recently concluded ACL tournament, playing attractive football in the process.
Hyderabad FC – Leicester City
Hyderabad FC were a revelation in the seventh edition of the ISL. The Nizams won a lot of hearts with their performances, as they put faith in young Indian players rather than relying on foreigners. Players like Asish Rai, Chinglensana Singh, Akash Mishra and more rose to the occasion and almost managed a first-ever playoffs berth in the club’s short history.
The similarities with Leicester City’s rise in recent years are obvious. The Foxes recruit young players who hold their own against the heavyweights of the Premier League. Brendan Rodgers’ men narrowly missed out on CL qualification last season, but look set to secure it in the current campaign. HFC too have a bright future to look forward to and would relish the tag of the underdog for another season.
Jamshedpur FC – Tottenham Hotspur
Jamshedpur FC have a habit of starting the season well, being among the top ranked teams, but lose focus as the season progresses. The Men of Steel have not finished higher than fifth position since their inclusion into the fold. Similarly, Tottenham Hotspur too have gone through a similar fate in the league.
The London-based club are underachievers. They have struggled to secure a top-four finish for the past few seasons including the latest one, where chances are very slim. The lack of trophies is a further disappointment for a team that are very ambitious, much like Jamshedpur FC.
Bengaluru FC – Olympique Lyonnais
Olympique Lyonnais were dominant in the French Ligue 1 before Paris Saint-Germain found rich owners. The club have struggled to win the competition in recent years, since the resurgence of teams like Lille and AS Monaco along with the Parisians.
Bengaluru FC, despite their state-of-the-art functioning, have seen themselves get left behind. The Blues finished their worst position in the standings (seventh), missing out on the playoffs for the first time. Teams like MCFC and ATKMB are only going to get stronger and BFC run the real risk of becoming a shadow of their former selves like Lyon.
Chennaiyin FC – Arsenal
History is kind to both Chennaiyin FC and Arsenal FC. The Marina Machans have won the title twice, while Arsenal have also been hugely successful in England. However, their current stature is totally polar to their historic brilliance. CFC finished eighth in the last edition of the ISL, after playing some of the most underwhelming football.
Similarly, Arsenal are fast heading towards a mid-table finish in the ongoing season and could end up without European football. Both outfits are victims of their past glory and shoddy recruitment.
SC East Bengal – Schalke 04
SC East Bengal are one of India’s oldest and most decorated clubs. However, their present situation is anything but celebratory. The Red & Gold Brigade entered the ISL under new ownership, but ended among the bottom-placed teams. The rich history of the club stands as a contrast to their current predicament.
Schalke 04 are seven-time Bundesliga champions, one of the most successful German teams out there. However, they are soon going to be relegated to the second division from the Bundesliga. A club of their stature is going through an unprecedented phase and so did East Bengal. The saving grace for the Indian outfit was the absence of relegation from the ISL.
Kerala Blasters – Newcastle United
Kerala Blasters have the biggest fan-following among all ISL clubs. The fans are passionate about their team and are vocal with their opinions on how it functions. Moreover, they support the team unequivocally, but the performances on the pitch have failed to match the standards of old.
Newcastle United are one of the teams who are passionately supported. The culture of the club is closely related to the city and its fans. The outfit, however, have constantly flirted with relegation and barely manage to survive every season. If there was relegation in the ISL, the Blasters would have gone down last season after finishing 10th in the standings. The clock is ticking for both teams and their fans definitely deserve better.
Odisha FC – Watford
The last two seasons of Odisha FC in the ISL have closely resembled Watford’s time in the Premier League. Watford got relegated last season to the Championship and Odisha FC would have been relegated too, since they finished at the bottom this past campaign.
But, the similarity between the two lies in their tendency to change managers on a whim. Josep Gombau left the club for personal reasons and Stuart Baxter was sacked midway during the 2020-21 campaign. Watford sacked Javi Martinez and brought in Quique Sánchez Flores, who was also dismissed after merely 12 games in-charge. The constant changes have left both clubs bereft of an identity. Odisha are now on the lookout for a new manager, while Watford have steadied their ship.