These outfits have enough depth in Indian talent in their respective squads to succeed under the new rules.

The Indian Super League (ISL) is changing things up with a tweak in its rules for the 2021/22 season. The league has made a decision to reduce the number of foreigners to four. This is to try to blend in with the AFC’s system – with AFC competitions only allowing four foreign players.

For a league that rode on the reputation of star foreign players, making this decision is definitely surprising. But, it’s also a step in the right direction. This will only allow more Indian players to get into the limelight. It will also help with the development of the game in the country.

However, it’ll also force all the teams to adapt themselves to make do with fewer foreign players. A few ISL clubs were quite reliant on their foreign stars for success until last season. Going forward, that dependency needs to change. So, which teams are actually well settled to thrive, despite the reduced foreigners? Let’s have a look!

5. Hyderabad FC

Hyderabad FC turned out as the surprise packages of the 2020/21 ISL season. They put in some admirable performances under Manolo Marquez and were defensively really strong throughout. The Nizams also gave the spotlight to promising domestic starlets like Asish Rai, Liston Colaco, Akash Mishra. All these young players excelled last season. While they were empowered by foreigners like Odei Onaindia, Joel Chianese and Aridane Santana – HFC were not fully dependent on them.

The likes of Halicharan Narzary, Mohammad Yasir and Chinglensana Singh, along with the young guns played huge parts in their success. Marquez’s system revolves around getting the best out of every player, not just the foreigners. As a result, HFC often scraped together positive results, even when playing with fewer foreigners. It’s because of that compactness within the team that the club should be fine with the rule change.

4. NorthEast United

Lalengmawia won the Emerging Player of the Year award last ISL season for his breakthrough performance (Courtesy: ISL Media)

NorthEast United scripted a remarkable story in the ISL last season, qualifying the playoffs against all odds. At one point, it looked difficult for the Highlanders to even achieve a mid-table finish. However, under Khalid Jamil’s management, they pulled off a real underdog story to advance to the playoffs for only the second time in history. Now. the onus on them is to go all the way. NorthEast have always shown persistence with their young Indian players.

The domestic players are free to express themselves and know how big a job awaits them. If able to build a strong squad around midfield ace Lalengmawia and properly utilize the talents of Rochharzela, Ninthoinganba Meetei and others, the Highlanders should be fine with having to play with four foreigners next season.

3. Jamshedpur FC

For a club yet to make the Indian Super League playoffs even once in their four-year history, Jamshedpur FC are a surprise pick in this list. But, the outfit’s seasonal performances in the ISL shouldn’t be confused with their Indian core. The Owen Coyle-coached side have some of the best youngsters in Indian football as part of the squad.

The likes of Narender Gahlot, Boris Singh, Jitendra Singh are some exciting talents. Jamshedpur FC have a great feeder in the Tata Football Academy, which has been home to some of the finest talents in the country. Farukh Choudhary is another player, who has shown great potential and will be key to JFC’s hopes this season.

2. FC Goa

FC Goa have a very strong core of Indian players at the club (Courtesy: ISL Media)

One of the most successful and consistent clubs in the Indian Super League, FC Goa have always built their foundation on young Indian players. Although some of the best overseas stars to have featured in the ISL also played for Goa, the club’s core have always been Indian players. In Brandon Fernandes and Dheeraj Singh, FC Goa have perhaps two of India’s best current players. Goa’s performances in the AFC Champions League, where they held the likes of Al Rayyan and Al Wahda to goalless draws, shows the depth in their squad.

Glan Martins, Amarjit Singh and Ishan Pandita impressed last season while the likes of Sanson Pereira, Alexander Romario Jesuraj, Princeton Rebello and Saviour Gama look ready to make an impact. Goa have also signed Phrangki Buam and Makan Chote to add more depth to their ranks.

1. Bengaluru FC

Bengaluru FC had their most disappointing campaign so far in the Indian Super League last season, not being able to achieve a top-four finish for the first time. However, the Blues still boast a very strong domestic core that can bring sustained success. The likes of Sunil Chhetri, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Udanta Singh, Ashique Kuruniyan and Suresh Singh are now all bonified India internationals.

They also have bright young talents like Leon Augustine, Naorem Roshan Singh and Edmund Lalrindika ready to make an impact. Having succeeded in the AFC Cup in the past, BFC know what it takes to thrive without too many foreign stars in the team.

Bengaluru FC have the experience, quality and long-term sustainability to be one of the teams to perhaps benefit from this reduction of foreigners from next season onward.

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