Spaniard Edu Bedia will lead the team from the middle of the park this season.
In Juan Ferrando’s system, the FC Goa midfield is probably the most important area of action. Despite losing some quality players to Mumbai City FC this season, the Gaurs have made smart moves in the transfer market and got themselves covered. Ferrando likes a fluid system where he can have diverse options, with every player bringing something different to the table.
One of the most experienced foreign players in India, Edu Bedia has been named as the captain and he will have the duty to augment the middle of the park in the absence of Ahmed Jahouh. There are also a couple of exciting foreigners who will look to light up the league for the Gaurs, while the Indian group is a mixture of youth and experienced.
Last season was rough for Bedia, as he struggled for game-time with both Jahouh and Hugo Boumous playing at their supreme best. There was no space for the Spaniard in the Goa midfield. However, in this campaign, he is gearing up to lead the men. The former Barcelona ‘B’ midfielder is best when he is given the freedom to roam around the final third, as he has a knack for finding final passes and can even score some on his own.
But, looking at the players at Ferrando’s disposal, Bedia may have to play in a double pivot, anchoring the middle of the park and providing balance in midfield. His intricate passing and ability to run with the ball may help the Gaurs during their attacking build-up, as Ferrando will expect the likes of Alberto Noguera and Jorge Ortiz to develop an understanding with the 31-year-old.
The biggest loss in the off-season for the Gaurs was Hugo Boumous’ departure. The massive impact which he had last season propelled Sergio Lobera’s men to a top table finish. Therefore, replacing him will be a mammoth task. But, the Gaurs have roped in former Atletico Madrid ‘B’ attacking midfielder, Alberto Noguera. The 31-year-old is known for his exceptional ball retention and dribbling. His decisive passing in the final third makes him a goalscoring threat. Noguera is primarily an attacking midfielder, but he is equally adept on the flanks.
With the bar set so high, it will be difficult for the Spaniard to match it let alone exceed it. But, Noguera has experience plying his trade in the Spanish lower divisions and knows what it takes to perform under pressure. So, he is ready to put his footprints on Indian shores.
Next up in the list is Jorge Ortiz Mendoza – a crafty winger who brings a lot of pace and trickery to the table. Mendoza was a hot prospect during the off-season, as several ISL clubs were after him. But, the Gaurs managed to land him and he offers diversity to this midfield. The 28-year-old is at the peak of his abilities and if he performs according to his reputation, Ferrando will be elated.
The former Atletico Baleares winger can play on either flank and tends to deceive defenders with his quick feet and blistering pace. He also has the natural gift of dribbling and if he along with Noguera and Bedia get in sync during build-ups, it will be a mayhem for opposition defenders.
The Indian Core
The leaders of the pack of Indian midfielders have to be Lenny Rodrigues and Brandon Fernandes. Both have been with the club for a long time now and are absolute fan-favourites. Lenny is probably one player who has benefited a lot during Lobera’s reign and his improvement impacted the overall gameplay of the Gaurs. He has turned into a great passer, a quality that will be sought after in Ferrando’s system as well. But, his physical abilities still stand strong, as he will be vested responsibilities of breaking up the play and recycling possession.
Brandon, on the other hand, provides creative flair from the flanks. The India international has been a standout performer for Igor Stimac’s side as well and will look to continue that with the Gaurs. His ability to find space and pick out teammates with his passing makes him a huge threat in the final third. His movement often allows the other players in attack to come into play, dissecting the space in the final third. Just like his runs, his set-pieces are equally deadly and will keep the opposition on their toes.
From experience to youth, Princeton Rebello is one of the most hyped prospects in midfield. He was part of Lobera’s rotational plan last season and made a handful of appearances for the Gaurs. However, this can be his breakthrough campaign. The 21-year-old is technically astute to feature in this star-studded midfield.
Battle-hardened with the Indian Arrows and also with FC Goa’s development squad, Rebello is ready to make the big jump to the senior side. Mainly an attacking midfielder by trade, the 21-year-old has also adapted his game such that he can even fit in a deeper role in the double pivot.
Promoted youngsters and new domestic signings
To start with, Alexander Romario Jesuraj has returned to FC Goa after winning the I-League while on loan at Mohun Bagan last season. Although, he featured in some matches in the Durand Cup and Calcutta Football League, he was mostly injured for the I-League campaign. However, before that, the young winger had a breakthrough season with Chennai City FC, where they won the title and he was a vital player in Akbar Nawas’ system. Even though injuries may have hindered his progress, Jesuraj is a rough diamond and with Ferrando’s expertise, the 24-year-old can reach his truest potential.
The new signings include, former Shillong Lajong starlet Phrangki Buam and former NorthEast United star Redeem Tlang. Two excellent additions for the Gaurs this season, as it strengthens the midfield and will keep Ferrando spoiled for choices. Redeem has been one of the most consistent performers for the Highlanders over the last couple of seasons and was excellent during their incredible run in the 2018-19 season. Even last season, he was the only shining light for NorthEast and now he will have to fight for a place in a very talented midfield at Goa.
Phrangki Buam is a natural goalscorer. The youngster likes to get into dangerous positions in the final third with his marauding runs. The 19-year-old announced himself on the big stage by scoring six goals for Lajong in the 2018-19 I-League season. He has plied his trade in the state league and even featured for FC Bengluru United in the Second Division League. Now, he is ready to take the next step and learn from the likes of Igor Angulo, Brandon and others.
Lastly, both Nestor Dias and Flan Gomes have been rewarded with a promotion because of their excellent performances with the development squad. They will allow Ferrando with more depth and will look to make the most out of the chances they get this season.
All in all, FC Goa have a very balanced midfield lineup with flexible and dynamic players who can play in multiple positions with ease. Considering the pandemic this season and the injury concerns that come with it, Ferrando will have to shuffle his pack more often and he will never run out of options in midfield.