India’s showing in the recently concluded AFC U-23 Asian Cup Qualifiers proved the quality of many youngsters.
The Indian Super League (ISL) has tried elevating the performances of young players by giving away the Emerging Player of the Season award each year. Sandesh Jhingan was the first player to win it in 2014. Since then, a number of players have won the award and received a boost in their career.
With only four foreigners allowed in the playing XI in ISL 2021-22 season, more youngsters are tipped to get chances. This makes the race for the Emerging Player of the Season award more competitive. India’s decent showing in the recent AFC U-23 Asian Cup Qualifiers proved that there’s a lot of budding youngsters to look forward to.
Here are the top 10 players who could go on to win the Emerging Player of the Season award in ISL 2021-22.
10. Amarjit Singh Kiyam (SC East Bengal)
On loan from FC Goa, Amarjit Singh is expected to get a lot of game-time at SC East Bengal. If able to improve under new coach Manolo Diaz, the 20-year-old could become the lynchpin in their midfield. The former India U-17 captain is a real warrior on the pitch, covering a lot of ground to hassle opponents.
Kiyam will have to maintain consistency to help the Red & Gold Brigade enjoy a prolific ISL 2021-22 season. The youngster’s impressive tackling ability, clever distribution and composed nature makes him a unique prospect in their midfield. Kiyam can have his breakthrough season at SC East Bengal. If he does so, the Emerging Player of the Season award could be his for the taking.
9. Akash Mishra (Hyderabad FC)
The Hyderabad FC left-back was a standout performer for the team in the 2020/21 ISL season. Mishra’s heroics also got him a call-up for the national team, with Igor Stimac giving him a few opportunities. A sparky figure on the left, Akash Mishra proved he’s a sharp defender by averaging 4 tackles as well 2+ interceptions and clearances every game last season.
He will aim to produce even better defensive stats by being a colossal on the left for the Nizams. Moreover, if able to improve his final product after making surging forward runs and getting more goal contributions, Mishra can strongly contend for this award.
8. Ishan Pandita (Jamshedpur FC)
Ishan Pandita gained a reputation for being arguably the most impactful substitute in the ISL last season. The 23-year-old scored four goals from the bench for FC Goa, maintaining an impressive 40% goal conversion rate. He’s since moved to Jamshedpur FC, yearning for more playing time.
The young striker has a well-built shape that can help him cope up against physical opposition. His clever off-the-ball movement, link-up play, and general awareness should all enhance Jamshedpur’s attacking threat. Pandita just has to maintain his clinical nature and score goals regularly to boost his chances of bagging the Emerging Player of the Season award.
7. Liston Colaco (ATK Mohun Bagan)
After a brilliant season with Hyderabad FC and the subsequent big-money move to ATK Mohun Bagan, there will be lots of expectations from Liston Colaco this season. The young winger’s impressive performances in the AFC Cup for ATK Mohun Bagan proved he’s ready to be a regular for the Kolkata giants. He must discover his spark in Antonio Habas’ complex system & improve his decision-making to thrive in the coming campaign.
There are no questions about how good Colaco is with the ball, with his dribbling, pace & confidence making him one of the best young players in the league. However, Liston has to be more ruthless in finishing chances or creating goals for teammates to regularly play for the Mariners and contend for this award.
6. Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem (FC Goa)
It is rather surprising that despite his admirable talent, Dheeraj Singh is yet to play a full ISL season in his career. Well, that can be achieved in the upcoming campaign with FC Goa. The Gaurs will definitely rely on the youngster to maintain a strict defensive record. Dheeraj is coming off the back of an impressive AFC U-23 qualifiers campaign, where he kept a clean sheet and only conceded two goals in three games.
He also excelled for FC Goa in the AFC Champions League, proving to be one of the standouts of that campaign. Dheeraj has to maintain that consistency in the ISL, pulling off regular top saves to help his side. Notching up many clean sheets and Man of the Match performances can definitely make him one of the top contenders for this award.
5. Muhammed Nemil (FC Goa)
Muhammed Nemil was FC Goa’s breakout star in their Durand Cup 2021 win. The 19-year-old tormented opponents with his unpredictable style and impressed coach Juan Ferrando. He scored four goals and registered a few assists for the Gaurs, helping them go all the way to win the competition. Nemil’s clever movement, dribbling ability and sharp final product makes him an exciting young prospect for Indian football.
After his Durand Cup heroics, he should get plenty of chances in the upcoming ISL 2021-22 campaign. Knowing just how clinical he is in the final third and his admirable creativity to create chances, Nemil should make a significant impact. If just able to keep fit and maintain his composure in games, the young gun could finish with many goal contributions and be a serious contender for this award.
4. Suresh Singh Wangjam (Bengaluru FC)
Suresh Singh was one of Bengaluru FC’s shining aspects in their disappointing campaign in the previous ISL season. The 21-year-old midfielder featured in nearly every game, putting in hard-working shifts in midfield. Suresh only scored one single goal, but showcased admirable energy and desire to hassle opposition players.
He averaged 4 tackles per game as well as a decent passing accuracy of 71.42% throughout the campaign. Having impressed in the SAFF Championship and AFC U-23 Asian Cup Qualifiers recently, Singh looks set to be one of the Blues’ core players in the coming season. If able to increase his scoring output and able to act like the midfield general for the Blues, Suresh can significantly improve his chances of bagging the ISL 2021-22 Emerging Player of the Season trophy.
3. Mohammed Yasir (Hyderabad FC)
Coming off an impressive SAFF Championship 2021 campaign, Mohammed Yasir has solidified his spot in the Indian national team. It’s now time for the 23-year-old to make his mark in the ISL. Yasir featured quite frequently for Hyderabad FC last season, but was not able to start all the games. He registered two assists in 18 appearances, creating a number of chances with his clever passing. Yasir also registered an assist in the SAFF Championship for India. His overall influence improved the style of the team as well.
The 23-year-old’s excellent crossing ability, set-piece prowess and efficient passing technique can help create more chances for Hyderabad. If able to deliver assists and goals more consistently, Yasir could be one of the best-performing youngsters in ISL next season.
2. Vikram Partap Singh (Mumbai City FC)
Vikram Partap Singh was signed as a future star for Mumbai City FC, but his time to shine could be coming sooner than expected. The former Indian Arrows star could benefit from the new foreigner reduction rule in the ISL. The rule means that Singh could get more appearances and make his mark in the ISL. He excelled for India in the AFC U-23 Asian Cup Qualifiers, proving to be a real firecracker upfront.
Singh got a few appearances last season as a substitute, but will now aim to get more starts in the upcoming campaign. The forward is a feisty figure, knowing when to make the correct runs into the box to score goals. He’s also efficient with the ball, using his pace and dribbling ability to trouble defenders. Vikram has to be more clinical with taking his opportunities for the Islanders. Being able to do so could make him a favourite for the ISL 2021-22 Emerging Player of the Year award.
1. Rahim Ali (Chennaiyin FC)
Rahim Ali has had quite the eventful summer, shining in the national stage for India. He was the Man of the Tournament during the multiple friendly games against Nepal. Following that, Ali also performed well in the SAFF Championship – getting involved in a few goals. He has also done a commendable job leading the line for India U-23 in the AFC U-23 Asian Cup Qualifiers. After his recent heroics, Chennaiyin FC will definitely use him more regularly going forward.
The 21-year-old scored two goals in 16 appearances last season in the ISL, despite playing many as a substitute. This time, with confidence and momentum on his side, Ali will strive to perform better. The strong striker has to make good use of his link-up play, clever movement and finishing ability to get involved in goals. If he can just be more ruthless with his finishing and carve out chances for teammates with accurate passes, Ali could be Chennaiyin’s hero next season and a contender for the award.