There will be six new head coaches in the eighth edition of the league.
The Indian Super League (ISL) is full of incredible talents, whether it is players or coaching staff. In addition to talented local players, the league also has exceptional foreigners and head coaches. These figures are instrumental in increasing the overall level of the competition and bring experience to the premier league competition of India.
All the ISL clubs have put their faith in experienced foreign head coaches – the one exception being NorthEast United. The Highlanders appointed Khalid Jamil as their boss, making him the first Indian head coach in the ISL (excluding interim figures). Post the culmination of the previous season, several outfits decided to make changes at the managerial level. Thus, a total of six new head coaches will participate in the ISL next term, trying to achieve better things for their employers.
Here is a look at the new head-coaches in ISL 2021-22 and what they will bring to the table:
Marco Pezzaiuoli (Bengaluru FC)
Bengaluru FC will head into the forthcoming season of the ISL with a new figure at the helm. Naushad Moosa took over as interim head coach after the departure of previous manager Carles Cuadrat in mid-season. Marco Pezzaiuoli was appointed in February and has since overseen the club’s AFC Cup campaign. The Blues had a season to forget last time around and the German tactician will be aiming to change that in his first taste of the ISL.
Marco Pezzaiuoli has vast experience of working with Germany’s development teams such as the U-15s, U-16s, U-17s and U-18s. Most recently, he was the technical director at Bundesliga outfit Eintracht Frankfurt and also headed their U-19 side briefly. Pezzaiuoli believes in an attacking approach and has experience of developing some of the best footballers today, like Toni Kroos, Lars Bender and more.
Des Buckingham (Mumbai City)
Following in the footsteps of Sergio Lobera who achieved incredible things in India is going to be tough. That is the level of demands of the job waiting for Des Buckingham at Mumbai City during ISL 2021-22. Lobera has left his position with the club to work with City Football Group (CGF) on other projects, after guiding the Islanders to the ISL League Winners’ Shield and title last season.
Des Buckingham won the A-League double with Melbourne City as an assistant manager last season. The Englishman has finally got the opportunity to lead a team after working under several experienced managers. In the early days of his managerial career, he worked with former Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder at Oxford United. One of his big achievements is being the head coach of the New Zealand U-20 side. Buckingham will need to setup a system and become familiar with the conditions, players and the league in a short period of time.
Bozidar Bandovic (Chennaiyin FC)
Two-time ISL champions Chennaiyin FC have put their faith in vastly-experienced Bozidar Bandovic for the next season. The tactician has been in business for over 15 years, managing teams like Olympiacos in Greece to Buriram United in Thailand in the process. Part of the Yugoslavian First League-winning Red Star Belgrade team in 1994-95, Bandovic retired at an early age and began with an assistant coach position at Akratitos FC.
The 52-year-old won two league titles, setting record-breaking point totals with Buriram United. He will hope to bring similar success to CFC, who finished eighth in the table while under-performing massively. Csaba László was the head coach last time around and could not stamp his authority. Bandovic insists on playing three centre-backs and has a direct approach in build-up play, often using long-balls to trouble the opposition.
Ivan Vukomanovic (Kerala Blasters)
Ivan Vukomanovic will be heading Kerala Blasters in ISL 2021-22. He is the 10th appointment by the club, replacing Kibu Vicuna who was the head coach during the 2020/21 season. KBFC finished in 10th place last term and fans demanded change. Ivan Vukomanovic will have his hands full, trying to guide the Yellow Army to a higher finish in the league, preferably amongst the playoffs.
The Serbian has coached teams in countries like Belgium, Slovakia, and Cyprus. The 43-year-old began as an assistant coach at Belgian club Standard Liege during the 2013-14 season, prior to leading the team next term. Vukomanovic guided the team to the UEFA Europa league group stages two years consecutively. He will need to solve several issues at KBFC, but the recruitment and early signs are positive.
Manolo Diaz (SC East Bengal)
SC East Bengal finally managed to get their off-field issues resolved and secured participation in the upcoming season of the ISL. They have recruited Manolo Diaz as the head coach, who succeeds Robbie Fowler in the role. The debut campaign for the Red & Gold Brigade was very unsatisfactory, with them finishing in ninth place. SCEB have gone through a myriad of changes, both at the personnel and managerial level.
Manolo Diaz comes from Spain, like many other head coaches in the league. He brings a wealth of experience, after having worked at Real Madrid Castilla and taking care of their youth development for years. SCEB are going to transform the philosophy and approach next season, spearheaded by Diaz. The tactician last headed Hercules earlier in 2021 in Spain’s lower divisions. Diaz will help in establishing a possession-based style and developing the young players at the club’s disposal.
Kiko Ramirez (Odisha FC)
Odisha FC have appointed Kiko Ramirez as head coach ahead of the upcoming 2021-22 season of the ISL. The changes were expected after the Juggernauts finished at the bottom of the league under Stuart Baxter last campaign. Ramirez adds more Spanish flavour to the league and has previously headed teams like Castellon and Wisla Krakow. The Bhubaneswar-based outfit are gambling on the tactical prowess of Ramirez, who has no prior experience of working in Asia.
The Spaniard will bring the possession-based philosophy to the club, which became their identity under Josep Gombau. However, Baxter’s tenure saw a lot of problems come forth, such as over-reliance on individual players, bad defence, inexperienced midfield and poor tactical setup. OFC have brought in players like Hector Rodas and Victor Mongil among others to improve from the next season onwards.