The Highlanders have seen major changes in overseas players after their dismal last season.
The 2019-20 season turned out to be yet another disappointing one for NorthEast United, as they finished ninth in the table after managing to win only two of their matches. Head coach Robert Jarni was sacked towards the end of the campaign and was replaced by assistant coach Khalid Jamil for the remainder of the term. The Highlanders will look to start afresh after they appointed young Spanish tactician Gerard Nus for the upcoming season.
Apart from him, there are also a flurry of new faces among the foreign contingent at the club. We take a look at the new foreign signings and what they bring to the table:
The Uruguayan returns for a third season with the Highlanders and is also the only foreign player to be retained from the previous season. Gallego had an amazing first campaign for NorthEast United, as he scored four goals and assisted five more, helping the club qualify for the playoffs for the first time in their history. However, he picked up a horrific injury in the last four. Gallego was retained for a second season, but wasn’t fit to start until about halfway through the campaign. He ended up making 10 appearances, with a goal and an assist to his name.
Already experienced in the Indian Super League, NorthEast United will rely heavily on the creativity of the Uruguayan, which was missing for the most part of last season.
With the departure of Jose Leudo, NorthEast United replaced the Colombian with Mauritanian international Khassa Camara. Camara plays as a defensive midfielder and has featured in the French and Greek second divisions before joining the Highlanders.
His signing will improve the midfield and allow the likes of Lalengmawia to play with more freedom. This, however, will be Camara’s first season in the Indian Super League and he will need to adapt to the demands of the league quickly.
Another new arrival to the Indian Super League is Portuguese winger Luis Machado. Machado signed for NorthEast United from Moreirense FC, who play in the Portuguese first division. The attacker comes with a lot of experience, having made more than 100 appearances in the Portuguese top flight.
One of the major issues for NorthEast United last season was the lack of a proper winger to deliver crosses into the box. The arrival of Machado could turn out to be the solution to that particular problem.
NorthEast United have gone for a complete defensive makeover this season, as both the foreign centre-backs from last season have been released. To replace them, the Highlanders have brought in Belgian defender Benjamin Lambot.
Lambot is a tried and tested defender who has played most of his career in the Belgian first division. He has over 100 appearances in the league. Apart from that, Lambot can also play as a defensive midfielder, if needed.
Helping out Lambot in the heart of NorthEast United’s backline will be Australian Dylan Fox. Fox has played mostly in the A-League. A former Wellington Phoenix player, he won the Players’ Player of the Year at the club back in 2017-18. The defender has also plied his trade in South Korea. He joins from Australian outfit Central Coast Mariners.
A much-needed addition to the squad, Fox will add the exuberance of youth, while his partner Lambot provides experience.
One of the major shortcomings of the Highlanders last season was the lack of goals. Although Asamoah Gyan started the season on a high, his injury saw the goals dry up. To overcome this, NorthEast United have signed his compatriot Kwesi Appiah.
Kwesi has played in the English second and third divisions, having represented the likes of Crystal Palace, Reading and AFC Wimbledon. Another international signing who is completely new to the league, Appiah would like to fully utilize the experience he has gained throughout his career playing in different leagues in England
Helping out Appiah in the NorthEast United attack will be Guinean Idrissa Sylla. Sylla has previously represented the likes of Belgian giants Anderlecht and English club Queens Park Rangers. For Anderlecht, he made 27 appearances and scored eight goals, while he made 61 appearances for QPR and scored 17 goals. Appiah also made 27 appearances for Guinea and was part of the team that played in the 2015 Africa Cup Of Nations.
It was a disappointing performance from the Highlanders’ attack last time out, as they managed to score only 16 goals in 18 matches. However, the signing of Sylla could herald a change in their fortunes.