Some of these transfers left Indian football fans awestruck.
The Indian Super League has a habit of throwing up the occasional curveball and surprise, which is what makes it exciting and a reason to be cherished even beyond the pitch. Over the years, the league has also witnessed marquee signings, allegiance switches and returns, leaving fans stunned or at times even devastated. For instance, players departing teams right after title-winning seasons or exiting budding clubs – either in search of opportunities or sometimes simply for better financial prospects. This trend is only natural, for inconsistencies and tactical changes are complementary to the sport.
However, at times, some cases have also gone on to revamp individuals’ careers; in the sense that they’ve gained immense popularity or even revived their careers. Cases in point being those such as Dheeraj Singh and Jayesh Rane, who garnered recognition with their respective transfers.
Let’s find out the top five high-profile signings between ISL clubs:
5. Vinit Rai
Right at the start of 2022, during the winter transfer window occurred a shock transfer – between Odisha FC and Mumbai City. In other words; skipper Vinit Rai’s loan move to defending champions MCFC. 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.
As a result, multiple fans have begun questioning the growing hegemony of clubs in Indian football. Subsequently, it’s stirred up discussion on the reasons behind a growing number of such moves in the league. Either way, he’s expected to fill the injured Rowllin Borges’ void and significantly boost their midfield after sloppy performances lately.
4. Liston Colaco
Liston Colaco was one of ISL 2021-22‘s standout performers at Manolo Marquez’s Hyderabad FC. With his abundance of pace and exceptional eyes for crossing inside the box, he was part of a destructive Nizams side that narrowly missed out on the playoffs that season. As a result, he earned praise from across the Indian football fraternity for such vibrant performances. This caught the attention of Antonio Habas’ ATK Mohun Bagan – the other club alongside Mumbai City who were in the race for marquee acquisitions.
Colaco penned down a deal involving a then-record fee for an Indian player, nearly ₹1.2 Crores. Ever since, he’s been massively impressive in attack alongside Manvir Singh and Roy Krishna in attack; with his tormenting runs, crosses as well as colossal strikes from distance.
On 13 August 2021, reigning champions Mumbai City signed Lalengmawia on a five-year deal from NorthEast United. This became a record as the transfer fee was approximately ₹2.1 Crores – beating Hugo Boumous’ amount from just a month before. This, along with an overall contract of over ₹11 Crores also meant him becoming one of India’s highest-paid footballers of all-time.
What made this saga so special? Well, it was one that went on for months with several clubs showing interest in the 21-year-old. Subsequently, the fact that he had a year left on his contract with the Highlanders made the episode even more interesting. Alongside, NEUFC’s reluctance to let him go despite pressure gave rise to transfer record speculation. Rightly so, it finally ended up happening in August, with MCFC agreeing terms for that breathtaking amount.
Since then, he’s become a regular for both the national side as well as Des Buckingham’s Mumbai City, as he continues to impress with his inexhaustible engine and forward-looking style of play.
2. Bartholomew Ogbeche
Bartholomew Ogbeche simply put, is one of the finest players to have graced the ISL. He’s played for four different clubs and excelled at all of them – so much so that he’s currently the third-highest scorer of all-time with 44 goals. Currently, he plays for Hyderabad FC and has nine goals in nine matches so far. Prior to this, however he spent an entire season (2020-21) with Mumbai City on loan.
This came right after his enthralling stints with Kerala Blasters and NorthEast United previously. That too after the Islanders’ series of marquee signings in Mourtada Fall, Hugo Boumous, Ahmed Jahouh, Lalengmawia and so on. Therefore, it took centre stage for being one of most popular signings of the season and from Mumbai’s perspective; the final piece of their dominant puzzle that would eventually lead them to ISL glory under Sergio Lobera’s management.
1. Hugo Boumous
When it comes to record transfers, it’s almost as if Hugo Boumous is synonymous with the phenomenon. The 26-year-old did this twice with his move to Mumbai City (2020) as well as ATK Mohun Bagan (2021) – only to be shattered by Apuia later on. Nonetheless, the former deal involved a fee of over ₹1.7 Crores while the latter; a little over ₹2 Crores. Speaking of his time prior to this, he was crowned ISL 2019-20’s Player of the Tournament.
This, therefore, was a show of his abilities; thereby attracting attention from all ranks of the ISL. The Islanders were the eventual winners of this race, bringing him on board and successfully integrating him into their title-winning squad last season. After this stint, he joined the Mariners in July of 2021 in a move that’s virtually changed their entire dynamic. Basically, he’s their top scorer (5) alongside Liston Colaco and second in terms of assists (3).
Not just that, but Boumous has also been constantly delivering prolific midfield performances with his movement, set-piece delivery, chance creation and pace – forming one of the strongest setups in midfield alongside the likes of Joni Kauko, Carl McHugh and Deepak Tangri among others. Hence, the French-Moroccan tops our chart of high-profile signings.