These players are regular starters and have transitioned into crucial members of their respective sides.

The 2021-22 Indian Super League (ISL) season has seen a variety of Indian players excel in their respective positions. In some cases, teams possess talents who are individually performing well, despite their team’s results in the end. Speaking of Indian players, one of the most exciting aspects is witnessing young talents leave their mark at the highest level. These players often compete with seasoned pros and their overtaking or simply consideration over such athletes is what makes things even more interesting.

This is a feat that several Indian youngsters have been achieving in ISL 2021-22. On that note, here’s a list of 10 such Indian youngsters who are making their mark this season:

Note: This list comprises of footballers who have played at least 10 matches or 600 minutes in ISL 2021-22.

10. Jitendra Singh (Jamshedpur FC)

Jitendra Singh
Jitendra Singh won Player of the Match award for his performance against ATK Mohun Bagan (Courtesy: ISL Media)

Jamshedpur FC currently rank fourth in the standings, with 22 points. In this journey, one standout Indian player has been 20-year-old Jitendra Singh. Jitendra has clocked 1116 minutes in 13 games for the Men of Steel. He particularly stood out in the game against ATK Mohun Bagan — where he delivered an all-around performance.

That day, he also ensured that all traffic in the middle of the park was blocked; winning all eight ground duels he participated in. Apart from that, he’s a regular in Jamshedpur’s midfield alongside Brazilian Alex Lima, who’s developed a good partnership in that position.

9. Devendra Murgaonkar (FC Goa)

Devendra Murgaonkar appeared 13 times in the previous edition of the ISL and his solitary goal came in the form of an equalizer against SC East Bengal. From there, he went on to score five goals in six appearances in the Durand Cup for the Gaurs. As a result, expectations were high on him in the ISL 2021-22 as well. However, he initially failed to deliver as per his standards.

Nonetheless, he’s showing signs of improvement of late with his accurate pressing abilities and multiple shots on target each game — leading to an overall xG (expected goals) of 2.20. This is the third-highest in his side; right behind top scorer Jorge Ortiz and Airam Cabrera.

8. Deepak Tangri (ATK Mohun Bagan)

Earlier in the summer, ATK Mohun Bagan signed Deepak Tangri on a two-year deal. Prior to this, he had a prominent defensive role at Chennaiyin FC. There, he clocked 1007 minutes across 17 matches featuring quite a lot defensively, despite their underwhelming eighth-place finish. However, this season Tangri has been thriving under both Antonio Habas and Juan Ferrando.

Alongside captain Pritam Kotal, Tangri shields his goal with a dominant presence. The duo makes vital tackles and interceptions on the right, while Tangri often covers the most ground amongst his defensive peers. Therefore, with Tangri in the ranks, ATKMB have a budding talent, who can hold his own and play in both the defence and defensive midfield roles.

7. Asish Rai (Hyderabad FC)

Asish Rai
Rai has dominated the right-flank for Hyderabad FC this season (Courtesy: ISL Media)

Speaking of full-backs, Hyderabad FC have two of the most consistent ones in the league. Playing at right-back, the 23-year-old is one of the most impressive players in Indian football. Pushing forward in attack, defending hard and intercepting crosses — he’s faring extremely well under head coach Manolo Marquez. Asish has also clocked a total of 1063 minutes so far — featuring in 12 matches in ISL 2021-22.

Asish Rai also has two assists, averages 34.5 passes per game and regularly assists Hyderabad FC’s midfield in build-up play. His explosive speed also makes him brilliant in the air — winning over 60% of all his aerial duels. With performances, it’s only a matter of time before he’s called up to the national team.

6. Lalengmawia (Mumbai City FC)

Last season’s ‘Emerging Player’ Lalengmawia joined Mumbai City from NorthEast United in August 2021. The promising young midfielder joined the defending ISL champions on a five-year contract, until May 2026. For the Highlanders, he featured in all 22 games, delivering outstanding performances that took them to the semi-finals last season. This time as well, he has featured in all 13 games for the Islanders, clocking 1138 minutes.

All throughout, Lalengmawia has been a treat to watch. He’s regularly demonstrated immaculate positioning and a sharp ability on the ball. What stands out especially is his impressive close touches and ability to setup multiple fast breaks. As a result, he’s been the Islanders’ most consistent performer.

5. Jeakson Singh (Kerala Blasters)

Jeakson has started each of Kerala Blasters’ matches this season (Courtesy: ISL Media)

Kerala Blasters are currently second in the standings, with 23 points. For this, a lot of credit goes to their versatile midfield, comprising foreign and Indian stars. One such name is Jeakson Singh, who’s combining extremely well in defensive duties.

This season, he has delivered some commanding performances as a defensive midfielder. Jeakson has played 1170 minutes and has started in all games so far. He has so far made 62 tackles, 33 interceptions and 691 touches overall — the best defensive numbers for KBFC in ISL 2021-22.

4. Ruivah Hormipam (Kerala Blasters)

21-year-old Ruivah Hormipam joined Kerala Blasters last April. Before this, he was with RoundGlass Punjab and Indian Arrows, where he gained recognition for his stunning tackles, marking and timely clearances. As a result, he was quickly brought into KBFC’s squad, for whom he debuted in the Durand Cup. In the ISL, he debuted against defending champions Mumbai City in Gameweek 7.

He helped Ivan Vukomanovic’s side keep a clean-sheet, their only second of the season. Ruivah won the most tackles in the game and also won every single ground duel he participated in — thereby making a statement debut. Overall, he has clocked 624 minutes this season and has sealed a starting XI position under head coach Vukomanovic.

3. Roshan Singh (Bengaluru FC)

Naorem Roshan Singh
Roshan scored a spectacular free-kick against Kerala Blasters (Courtesy: ISL Media)

One major concern for Bengaluru FC last season was their defensive line — particularly the full-backs. Especially, considering Ashique Kuruniyan’s injury, which saw some major mismatches and rotations in that area. However, with 23-year-old Roshan, it seems to be resolved this time. Right from the Durand Cup, he has displayed tremendous agility, ball control and crossing skills. Through this, he has sealed his starting spot on the flanks.

Roshan has clocked 1118 minutes in 13 games so far and has a goal and six assists to his name — the latter for which he’s joint-top in the league. Roshan is also extremely accurate with both feet. This allows him to take set-pieces from all over — alongside several others at BFC. Overall, he’s operating as a crucial piece in head coach Marco Pezzaiuoli’s puzzle.

2. Akash Mishra (Hyderabad FC)

Akash Mishra is the other half of Hyderabad’s brilliant full-back duo. Last season, he was the pick of the Indian players and made a huge impression, which earned him a national team call-up. The 20-year-old went toe-to-toe with Asish Rai and was the best passer in the squad with 827 successful passes. He has continued this red-hot form this season as well.

Mishra has clocked 1251 minutes in 14 games, thereby starting in all of Hyderabad’s matches so far. He has scored twice and assisted thrice in ISL 2021-22, making him joint-top assist-maker for Hyderabad. At the same time, he is also thriving due to Manolo Marquez’s system of using full-backs to make overlapping runs and move in-field when finding enough space. Overall, he’s arguably been the best full-back this season. His exploits last week earned him a place in FIFA Ultime Team of the Week, making Mishra the first Indian to feature in the team.

1. Liston Colaco (ATK Mohun Bagan)

Liston Colaco
Colaco has elevated himself to one of India’s best performers this season (Courtesy: ISL Media)

Talk about stunning curlers and long-rangers and you’re reminded of Liston Colaco. The 23-year-old Goan has lighted up the ISL with his skill — so much so that some of his goals have also picked up international media coverage. This, along with his quick feet, dribbling and ability to operate on either flank has made him one of the best forwards this season.

As a result, he has established himself as a regular starter featuring in 11 out of 12 games so far, that too, in a star-studded Mariners’ team this season. Subsequently, Liston Colaco has scored five goals and is the fifth-highest goalscorer in ISL 2021-22, a feat he currently shares with five other players. Colaco, alongside Hugo Boumous, is also the joint-top scorer for ATK Mohun Bagan.

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