The honour is reserved for the best all-round performer at the end of the league.
The players who participate in the Indian Super League (ISL) have the primary objective of guiding their team to success. Football is, after all, a team game! But, there are also personal accolades that entice every elite player in the league.
The highest personal honour is obviously the ISL Player of the Season Award. Better known as the ‘Hero of the League,’ some of the top names in the ISL have won the award previously. On most occasions, players who won it either helped their teams win the title or played a major role in getting them far into the playoffs.
A number of quality players will battle for this award in ISL 2021-22 as well. That includes a number of past winners! With that being kept in mind, let’s look at the five contenders for the ISL 2021-22 Player of the Season Award:
5. Nerijus Valskis (Jamshedpur FC)
Nerijus Valskis has proven to be a really efficient foreign acquisition in the ISL. He has so far scored 23 goals in 38 appearances in the league. Last season, the Lithuanian forward was Jamshedpur FC’s highest scorer – with eight goals in 18 appearances. Since then, the Men of Steel have built a stronger team and have made some impressive attacking acquisitions.
If he’s able to build the right kind of chemistry with the likes of Jordan Murray, Alex Lima and Ishan Pandita, Valskis can get firing on all cylinders. Coach Owen Coyle would also want to unleash the goal machine that lit up the ISL in the 2019/20 season. Valskis can take Jamshedpur to the promised land and bag the Hero of the League award in ISL 2021-22 with the goalscoring feat.
4. Roy Krishna (ATK Mohun Bagan)
Winner of the Hero of the League award last season, Roy Krishna makes ATK Mohun Bagan look like a one-man team. The Fijian forward scored 14 goals and produced eight assists last season, making an incredible impact on the pitch. Be it linking up with teammates, troubling defenders with his clever off-the-ball movement, or finishing chances, Krishna is a defender’s nightmare.
He’s been extremely consistent ever since arriving in the ISL. The two-year experience here should only benefit the striker this time around. Krishna’s main objective will, of course, be to help ATKMB win the league title after barely missing out last time around. However, he’ll also be intent on maintaining his amazing goalscoring consistency – doing which will automatically increase his chances of winning the Best Player award.
3. Sunil Chhetri (Bengaluru FC)
Sunil Chhetri still remains the only Indian player to have ever won the Hero of the League award. In recent months, the Bengaluru FC captain has proven that he’s aging like fine wine. Him guiding his side to another ISL title shouldn’t be discarded so easily. Chhetri could be rotated slightly by BFC in ISL 2021-22, but he’s still expected to feature heavily. Even in a difficult season last year, Chhetri led from the front – scoring eight goals and assisting twice. He’ll aim to lead from the front for Marco Pezzaiuoli’s side this season and motivate his teammates.
Chhetri’s clever movement, incredible striker’s instincts and positioning make him one of the best forwards in the ISL. The attacker will be intent on scoring a lot of goals this season. He can definitely contend for the Player of the Season award.
2. Igor Angulo (Mumbai City)
Igor Angulo made a fantastic impression in his debut season in the ISL, winning the Golden Boot Award! He thrived in the role as FC Goa‘s hitman, producing some impressive goals with his excellent finishing ability. The Spaniard has now decided to move to Mumbai City, the defending champions!
A lot of changes have occurred in the Islanders‘ squad and there will be reliance on Angulo to produce the goods. The 37-year-old seemingly thrives under pressure and loves taking opportunities. With his impressive physicality, smart movement and composed finishing style, Angulo is likely to score a lot of goals in ISL 2021-22 and will be a strong contender for the Best Player award.
1. Hugo Boumous (ATK Mohun Bagan)
There is a reason why ATK Mohun Bagan broke all kinds of ISL transfer records to sign Hugo Boumous. They expect him to deliver the dominance they’ve been craving for long. Boumous is also a former winner of the Hero of the League award, having won it in the 2019/20 season. From his appearances in the AFC Cup, Boumous looks to have adapted to the Mariners’ style well.
The 26-year-old played an influential role in Mumbai City’s ISL success last season, scoring three goals and registering seven assists in 16 appearances. Boumous possess an exceptional creative vision that is almost unmatched in the ISL. He’s dangerous when it comes to moving the ball forward, instigating counter-attacks and finishing chances himself. If he’s able to maintain his fitness all season long in ISL 2021-22, Boumous should be involved in a lot of goals and be an automatic contender for this award.