Teams across the country are completing their squads ahead of the new season.
The Indian football season is all set to officially begin later this month with the Indian Super League while the I-League will be following suit from January. The clubs are currently making the final changes in their ranks. While Mumbai City and NorthEast United are busy announcing their final Indian players for the season, the I-league clubs are just getting heated up for the campaign ahead. Mohammedan Sporting have roped in a horde of Indian players along with three foreign stars while RoundGlass Punjab FC have retained their core from last season.
Let us take a look at the Indian football transfer signings which were made in the last week in both leagues.
The Highlanders have solidified their defence by roping in experienced defender Gurjinder Kumar. The former Mohun Bagan player led the Mariners to their second I-League title in the 2019-20 season and can play in different positions at the back.
Gurjinder has prior ISL experience when he featured for FC Pune City (now defunct) and has had stints for clubs like Minerva Punjab, Salgaocar and Pune FC. His experience and leadership may come in handy for coach Gerard Nus. He predominantly plays as a left-back but can also slot in as a centre back if needed.
Former Chennai City defender Mashoor Shereef has joined NorthEast United ahead of the upcoming season, the club have announced. Shereef will bring in versatility, something which will amuse head coach Gerard Nus. The 27-year-old was a forward earlier but it was Akbar Nawas who deployed him as a centre back, where he excelled with ease. He can also play as a defensive midfielder if the need arises and will be a very vital addition for the Highlanders.
Mumbai City FC
Amey Ranawade and PC Rohlupuia
The Islanders also made some final additions to their squad as they roped in former FC Goa defender Amey Ranawade and former East Bengal midfielder PC Rohlupuia.
Ranawade featured in the recently concluded I-League qualifiers for Bengaluru United. An AIFF Academy graduate, he has represented India at U-17 and U-19 levels. The 22-year-old versatile defender has signed a one-year contract which allows him to reunite with Sergio Lobera.
21-year-old Mizo midfielder PC Rohlupuia has signed a four-year contract with Mumbai City FC. He featured for East Bengal junior team and came up through the ranks to feature for the senior team. However, he did not get many chances in the last two seasons.
Chanso Horam and Naorem Tondomba Singh
The Islanders have added midfielders Chanso Horam and Naorem Tondomba Singh ahead of the upcoming season. Both midfielders have penned four-year deals but as a part of their development, Mumbai City FC have loaned them out to I-League clubs. Former NEROCA wonderkid Chanso Horam will feature for TRAU FC while Tondomba Singh will join Sudeva for the upcoming season.
RoundGlass Punjab FC
Danilo Quipapa, Kiran Chemjong, Sanju Pradhan and Anwar Ali
RoundGlass Punjab are eager to build on their last season’s performance and have made sure to keep their core intact. They have retained crucial foreign players in Danilo Quipapa and Kiran Chemjong to solidify the backline. Danilo was one of their standout performers from the 2019-20 season and was retained. On the other hand, Chemjong’s consistent performance made the club to retain him for the forthcoming campaign as well.
Just like the foreigners, Punjab FC also retained the services of two of their crucial Indian players in Sanju Pradhan and Anwar Ali Sr. Pradhan was one of the best performing midfielders in the I-League last season. Despite of rumours of him joining the ISL, he decided to stay. Similarly, Anwar Ali, who also had a decent outing in the 2019-20 season was retained by the club.
The prodigal son returns after a gap of two seasons, when he had stints with Bengaluru FC and NEROCA and later returned to Bhutan and played for Paro FC. The Bhutanese forward he featured for Punjab FC during the 2017-18 season, helping the club to win their maiden I-league title. Head coach Curtis Fleming will be hoping for a similar outcome in the upcoming season.
Chencho’s arrival will offer Punjab FC very different dynamics in their forward line. They already have creative midfielders in Joseba Beitia and Sanju Pradhan and if Chencho can combine with them, he can give his side an edge in the campaign.
Mohammedan Sporting Club
Mohammedan Sporting club have already begun their I-League preparation in full swing as they have roped in Jose Hevia as head coach. The Spanish tactician has been working in India since 2014 and was the Technical Director of Arsenal Soccer Schools. Later he also had stints with FC Pune City, Shillong Lajong and Minerva Punjab in their development and academy setups. He is known for nurturing young talents and the Black Panthers are hopeful that Hevia’s arrival will lead them to the I-League title this season.
Manoj Mohammed, Kunzang Bhutia, Altamash Sayed and Arijit Bagui
The Black Panthers made a flurry of Indian football signings in goalkeeper Kunzung Bhutia, midfielder Altamash Sayed and defenders Arijit Bagui and Manoj Mohammed.
Bhutia featured in the I-League Qualifiers for FC Bengaluru United. He has also plied his trade for several Indian football clubs including ATK, Hyderabad FC, Shillong Lajong and Churchill Brothers. He will provide stiff competition to the other goalkeepers in the team.
Both Arijit Bagui and Altamash Sayed were part of the Bhawanipore FC in the I-League Qualifiers. Bagui has prior experience of playing for Mohun Bagan and was a part of the squad which won the I-League in the 2019-20 season.
Sayed was part of the Bengaluru FC and was in the senior team when the Blues won the ISL in 2018-19 season beating FC Goa in the finals. He has previously featured for teams like Minerva Punjab and Real Kashmir and will provide depth in midfield.
Manoj Mohammed was part of the East Bengal youth team and gradually came up the ranks and featured for the senior team under former coach Alejandro Menendez. The 21-year-old is primarily a left-back but can even slot in as centre back and will provide depth in defence.
Mohammed Fatau became the first foreign signing for Mohammedan Sporting ahead of the next season. The Ghanaian midfielder has played in several leagues throughout his career, plying his trade for clubs like UD Almeria, Granada CF and Rayo Vallecano in the La Liga. He then moved to Turkey before joining Saudi Arabian outfit AL Qadisiyah before moving to Kuwait on loan.
Fatau likes to break up play and cover the backline and win back possession. The 27-year-old can become a vital cog in Hevia’s system this season.
Raphael Ownrebe and Philipp Adjah
Mohammedan Sporting have bolstered their forward line by signing Raphael Ownrebe and Philipp Adjah. Ownrebe is a Nigerian striker who is equally adept in playing in the wide area of the front three. Apart from his versatility, it is his goalscoring statistics that steals the show.
Ownrebe made his name in the Bangladesh Premier League when he joined Sheikh Jamal, where he became the highest scorer of the league with 15 goals and nine assists. In the 2018-19 season, he joined Sheikh Russel FC, where he scored 22 goals and becoming the league’s top goalscorer in consecutive seasons.
Along with Ownrebe, Mohammedan Sporting have also roped in Philipp Adjah who featured for Bhawanipore FC in the I-League Qualifiers. The Ghanaian marksman plied his trade for NEROCA FC in the I-League last season, scoring nine goals. Adjah’s knack of getting in the right positions in attack makes him deadly for the opposition defenders. Mohammedan management will be hoping that both strikers combine well and bring them success.
The Black Panthers added Arashpreet Singh to bolster their defence ahead of a very crucial I-League campaign. Arashpreet plied his trade for Real Kashmir in the last I-League season, making six appearances for the Snow Leopards. The 27-year-old is a centre back who is also comfortable in the left-back position and will provide stability to the backline.
Dennis Antwi Agyare
The Malabarians have signed a proper goalscorer in Dennis Agyare for the upcoming season. The Ghanaian centre forward comes with a much-needed experience of playing for top clubs across three continents. Agyare started his career at Ghanaian Premier League side Accra Hearts of Oak before joining Malaysian Super League side Kelantan FC. He enjoyed great success at Kelantan FC, winning the treble in his first season. He has also plied his trade in the top divisions of Norway and Sweden and will come with a lot of experience to lead the lines for Gokulam Kerala in the upcoming season.