Both ISL and I-League clubs made some solid additions to their squads in the winter transfer window.
The January transfer window ended on Monday, shutting down a busy month for all Indian football clubs. As usual, with the Indian Super League season past its halfway stage and the I-League just starting before it was halted, clubs tried their hand at strengthening certain areas and bringing about revamps.
Like last season, this January transfer window was once again slightly different, considering that the COVID-19 pandemic also played a role. Nonetheless, major changes and additions took place as usual, for each club to achieve its desired objectives. From vital positional replacements to additional squad depth, every club engaged in the process for their respective reasons.
As things settle into position now, here’s a look at the top 10 signings in the Indian Football circuit in the January 2022 transfer window.
10. Redeem Tlang (FC Goa to Odisha FC)
On January 26, Odisha FC announced the signing of winger Redeem Tlang on loan from FC Goa. In the ongoing season, he had played just 39 minutes as a substitute in one game. Last season though, he notched 13 matches in all competitions and scored one goal. This time around, he was part of the Gaurs’ Durand Cup-winning campaign — where he made five appearances and scored one goal. This, along with his overall ISL track record meant major expectations from the 26-year-old.
However, with injuries and other resultant preferences by both Juan Ferrando and Derrick Pereira, he needed a lot more game-time. Therefore, this move to the Juggernauts seems ideal. In short, with his pace, experience and abilities to play both in the attacking zone and outside it, he adds the necessary quality to their attack for a turnaround in the remainder of the season.
9. Vinit Rai (Odisha FC to Mumbai City)
Right at the start of the window, occurred a shock transfer – between Odisha FC and Mumbai City. In other words; skipper Vinit Rai’s loan move to defending champions MCFC. In terms of club policies and timing, this puzzled the Indian football community, for no one understood the reason behind loaning the club’s captain. That too to a direct competitor who are very well in the race for a top-four spot.
However, tactically it was known that he’d replace the injured Rowllin Borges — whose absence had severely plagued the Islanders’ progress. With statistics like an 86.81% passing accuracy and 4.25 tackles, along with his intercepting and clearing abilities, he felt like the right piece for Des Buckingham’s ailing puzzle.
8. Fran Sota (SC East Bengal)
On 25 January, SC East Bengal announced the signing of Spanish midfielder Fran Sota as their sixth foreigner — after Amir Dervisevic’s departure. Sota began his career with Spanish club Osasuna and has since then spent the entirety of his career in Spain. Speaking of his abilities, he can operate both as a No. 8 or a No. 10 and is hence considered to be the ideal player to have in the middle of the park. He can also play in a slightly more advanced position.
The fact remains that he has been the most efficient from the attacking midfield position (16 goals, three assists) throughout his career. Most importantly, he has the knack of arriving in the box at the most opportune time to slot one in. As a result of all this, he could be that missing piece of SC East Bengal’s creativity and open play puzzle. In other words, precisely the creative midfielder that they’ve lacked since the start of the season.
7. Diego Mauricio (Mumbai City FC)
On January 2, Mumbai City announced the signing of Brazilian Diego Mauricio. The 30-year-old forward joined the club on a short-term deal until May 31. With a brilliant tenure at Odisha FC previously, he’s no stranger to the ISL. Mauricio scored 12 goals in 20 games for them last season — thereby instantly making his mark.
However, with Odisha FC finishing last in the standings, he headed to Qatar for a brief stint. Here, he was yet again his club’s top scorer with eight goals in nine games. Therefore, he comes back to Indian football having retained his red-hot form.
6. Sandesh Jhingan (ATK Mohun Bagan)
At the start of the window, India international Sandesh Jhingan returned to ATK Mohun Bagan on a free transfer for his second stint. Jhingan mutually terminated his contract with Croatian club HNK Sibenik and joined the Mariners on a short-term deal until the end of the season. He was one of the standout players for the Mariners in the 2020-21 season, where they finished runners-up.
With 10 clean-sheets and only 19 goals conceded, he helped ATKMB maintain the best defensive record in the league and go all the way to the ISL final, where they lost to Mumbai City FC. Overall, he made 22 appearances last season after coming back from a year-long injury layoff.
5. Nerijus Valskis (Jamshedpur FC to Chennaiyin FC)
At the start of this year, after spending nearly one and a half seasons at Jamshedpur FC, Lithuanian striker and former Indian Super League (ISL) Golden Boot winner Nerijus Valskis returned to Chennaiyin FC. In the 2020-21 season, he netted 10 goals and this time he’s scored twice, with both coming only for Jamshedpur FC so far. Essentially, Valskis was an important piece for JFC under Owen Coyle last season and continued to be one this time as well, especially considering his partnership with Greg Stewart upfront.
However, with poor attacking returns and the loss of Brazilian ace Rafael Crivellaro to injury, he quickly came under head coach Bozidar Bandovic’s radar — and soon enough he was actually added to CFC’s arsenal. Since then, he’s started three out of five games for Bandovic’s struggling side, as they look to regroup in the race for the top four.
4. Mauro Dos Santos (Rajasthan United)
Arguably, Mauro Dos Santos’ signing for Rajasthan United is one of the biggest moves in Indian football this January transfer window. Santos started his career with Club Atletico Banfield for the U-20 side. From there, he went on to their first-team followed by stints in La Liga and the Argentine Primera Division — where the centre-back last plied his trade.
Overall, he has 80 appearances in La Liga and vast experience in Argentina — thereby undoubtedly making him a major marquee signing in the I-League. Mauro’s signing not only marks another achievement in Indian football, but is also going to influence Rajasthan United defensively as well.
3. Yaya Banana (Bengaluru FC)
On Deadline Day, Bengaluru FC announced the signing of Cameroon international Yaya Banana. Banana comes in to replace Yrondu Musavu-King after his ruling out due to injury. Speaking of his experience, Banana most recently played for Jordanian side Shabab Al-Ordon. Initially, the 30-year-old started off his professional career with Cameroonian club Achille FC Yaounde. From there, he moved overseas, where he had stints in France, Switzerland and Greece among others.
Internationally, Banana represented Cameroon at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). Here, he scored a goal and was also named in the Group Stage XI — alongside the likes of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Riyad Mahrez among others. Therefore, such vast experience could bolster BFC’s defence now.
2. Marcelinho Pereira (Rajasthan United to NorthEast United)
On January 14, NorthEast United announced the signing of Marcelinho on loan from Rajasthan United. Simply put, he’s one of the most influential foreigners in the Indian Super League. He has a whopping 33 goals and 18 assists with over 80 games in five seasons to his name. In 2016, he won the Golden Boot and in 2017, played a crucial role in the erstwhile FC Pune City’s road to the playoffs.
He was a much-anticipated player this season in Rajasthan United’s squad. However, with registration issues and the league suspension, he decided to join the Highlanders. Since then, despite the club’s form, he’s been one of the brightest spots in attack alongside Marco Sahanek.
1. Lallianzuala Chhangte (Chennaiyin FC to Mumbai City)
On Deadline Day, Lallianzuala Chhangte became Mumbai City’s fourth January transfer window addition, as he joined them on a six-month loan from Chennaiyin FC, making it perhaps the biggest transfer in Indian Football this winter. The Mizo winger last started for CFC on December 22 against Kerala Blasters. Since then, he only played 75 minutes in six games — leading to speculation of a move. Rightly so, he shifted base to the Islanders. Speaking of his record, he is the third-highest scoring Indian overall in the Indian Super League.
Apart from this, he also boasts of experience with the Indian national team — having represented the country in multiple campaigns, including the FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Overall, he has four goals in 11 caps for the Blue Tigers. Combine these statistics with his overall ISL and I-League record and you get one of the best players in Indian football.