We track down the managers who were in-charge during the 2017-18 season of the Indian top flight.
The Indian Super League has come a long way since its inception in 2014. Even though it doesn’t boast the glitz and glamor of its European counterparts, the competition has grown exponentially over the years, making it highly lucrative for everyone involved. This burgeoning reputation of the ISL has attracted not just foreign players, but coaches too, who see a new avenue to gain experience or even carve a niche. Legendary names like Zico, Marco Materazzi, Gianluca Zambrotta and so on have all been part of the ISL.
We’ve already seen what the coaches of 2014, 2015, and 2016 editions of the ISL are up to currently. Here, we find out where the head coaches of the 2017-18 season are today:
Robbie Keane (Atletico de Kolkata)
Irish legend Robbie Keane joined Atletico de Kolkata as their player-coach in March 2018 after the exit of his former Tottenham Hotspur teammate Teddy Sheringham. ATK were in the danger of missing the playoffs when he took over, but the side ended up finishing even lower under his stewardship.
ATK were second from bottom at the end of the campaign, despite the striker netting six goals in nine games for them. Keane then decided to leave the club to become the assistant manager of Ireland’s national side. He was last seen with Championship side Middlesbrough in the same capacity.
Albert Roca (Bengaluru FC)
There’s been no dearth of Spanish coaches in the ISL. Infact, the 2017-18 season alone had three of them! That included former Real Zaragoza defender Alberto Roca, who oversaw arguably Bengaluru’s best period of the last decade, guiding them to the ISL final in 2018, a year after engineering their march to the AFC Cup final and Federation Cup triumph.
Roca left his position soon after the conclusion of the campaign and took over the helm of Hyderabad. However, Ronald Koeman appointed him as the fitness coach of FC Barcelona a few months later, causing him to leave the club without managing a single game.
John Gregory (Chennaiyin FC)
John Gregory is a veteran of 11 clubs, including some well-known English sides like Aston Villa and and QPR. However, nowhere has the former midfielder succeeded quite like at Chennaiyin. He led them to the 2017-18 title and extended his contract by another year.
However, the Marina Machans produced arguably the worst title defence in ISL history in the following season, finishing bottom of the table. They could collect just nine points and two wins all season. It spelt the end of Gregory’s association with the club and he hasn’t taken up a new coaching job anywhere since.
Miguel Angel Portugal (Delhi Dynamos)
The former Real Madrid player spent the better part of his quarter-of-a-century long managerial career hopping from one Spanish club to another. However, in the last decade, Portugal has had various brief stints abroad, including one season in the ISL with Delhi Dynamos during the 2017-18 campaign.
It wasn’t his most glorious spell though, with the capital side failing to qualify for the playoffs after finishing a lowly eighth. He later attributed it to a tight schedule and their low budget. But, following another brief stint with La Liga side Granada, he returned to the ISL with FC Pune City, but was sacked after just three games in the job.
Portugal is currently the manager of Bolivian side Royal Pari.
Avram Grant (NorthEast United)
Avram Grant is fondly remembered for his short-yet-memorable stint with Chelsea, when he lead them to the Champions League and League Cup finals. The Israeli manager has had a good reputation overall and was roped in by NorthEast United in January 2018.
The Highlanders, who’d struggled badly until then, improved slightly under Grant. However, it was a case of a little too late, with the side finishing rock-bottom in the end. He was just an interim manager and the club opted against making his stay permanent.
Grant hasn’t returned to coaching since.
Ranko Popovic (FC Pune City)
Another highly journeyed manager on this list, Popovic was appointed as FC Pune City’s manager for the 2017-18 season and was fairly successful in the role. The Kosovan led them to the semi-finals where the Stallions lost to Bengaluru.
Despite a fairly successful campaign, Popovic parted ways with the club in May 2018. He returned to Austria to manage St. Polten and is currently the head coach of Japanese side Machida Zelvia.