Some high-profile overseas signings have been made by the clubs ahead of the upcoming season.
The Indian Super League (ISL) is less than three weeks away from unfolding its eighth edition. All 11 teams have started their preparations in full swing as we inch closer to the country’s top-flight league.
The forthcoming season will be played behind the curtains in a bio-secure bubble in Goa. Since the inception of the league, overseas players have played a huge role in the development of the league. From World Cup winners Roberto Carlos, Robert Pires and Marco Materazzi to global stars such as Diego Forlan, Tim Cahill and Robbie Keane – the ISL has been home to some of the world’s best footballers.
Here are the top 10 foreigners to watch out for in the ISL in the upcoming 2021-22 season.
10. Greg Stewart (Jamshedpur FC)
After yet another season where they almost managed to reach the playoffs, Jamshedpur FC will be looking to bounce back stronger this time. They have added a lot of quality to their ranks in the transfer window ahead of ISL 2021-22. One name that stands out is Greg Stewart, who joins the Men of Steel following a title-winning campaign with Rangers in Scotland.
Stewart can play anywhere across the forward line as well as an attacking midfielder. It will be interesting to see how Owen Coyle decides to use Stewart alongside the likes of Nerijus Valskis and Jordan Murray.
9. Mirlan Murzaev (Chennaiyin FC)
With a hope to turn things around, Chennaiyin FC have undergone a complete overhaul in the summer. The Marina Machans appointed a new head coach in Bozidar Bandovic with a majorly revamped foreign contingent. Kyrgyzstan international Mirlan Murzaev is one of the new overseas signings and is expected to lead the forward line.
Mirlan primarily plays as a right winger, but can slot in as an attacking midfielder and also in the left wing if needed. Since the beginning of the 2020-21 season, Mirlan has scored eight goals and provided as many assists in 22 appearances. The 31-year-old has been a consistent performer in front of the goal in the past few seasons and the southerners will be hoping he replicates his form for them.
8. Daniel Chima Chukwu (SC East Bengal)
The Red & Gold Brigade confirmed their participation for the upcoming edition of the ISL very late. Despite the delayed entry, they have made quite a few interesting additions to their squad ahead of ISL 2021-22 season. It would not be wrong to say that SC East Bengal have a better squad than last season, at least on paper. Their standout signing this season has to be the Nigerian target man Daniel Chima Chukwu.
Chima comes in to the ISL with a reputation of scoring goals. He has won many trophies in Norway and Poland and has a perfect winner’s mindset. Apart from that, he has scored 91 times and assisted 44 goals in 262 career appearances. Chima’s capability to play anywhere across the forward line will give SC East Bengal an added advantage.
7. Bartholomew Ogbeche (Hyderabad FC)
After missing on their first play-offs appearance by the finest of margins, the Nizams of Hyderabad would want to bring a change in their fortunes. Hyderabad FC are a young team and they surely needed a leader on the pitch which they have got in Bartholomew Ogbeche.
The Nigerian star helped Mumbai City FC clinch the league double last season. Additionally, he has proved his worth in every club that he has played for in India. He’s the record goal scorer for Northeast United and Kerala Blasters with 12 and 15 goals respectively as well.
In three ISL seasons, Ogbeche has registered 35 goals and assisted six times. The 37-year-old is a complete package for Hyderabad FC and a lot will be expected from him in ISL 2021-22 season.
6. Federico Gallego (Northeast United)
After a dream run to the playoffs last season, the Highlanders will be looking to replicate their heroics from the previous campaign once again. Northeast United are ready to script history as Khalid Jamil has become the first Indian coach to manage an ISL team. The Guwahati-based club have made a few shocking and interesting moves in the transfer market and have put together an exciting team.
The best decision would surely be the retention of talisman Federico Gallego. The Uruguayan played a magician’s role in guiding the Highlanders to the playoffs last time, notching four goals and six assists along the way. He is surely the most important player in the Highlanders’ setup. Gallego will have to shoulder the responsibility of contributing with his game as well as his leadership attributes.
5. Hugo Boumous (ATK Mohun Bagan)
In a sudden turn of events, ATK Mohun Bagan roped in Mumbai City FC’s most prized asset Hugo Boumous following the 2020-21 season. The Frenchman has now become the most expensive buy for the second consecutive season in the ISL. The Islanders paid more than ₹1.7 Crores to FC Goa for his services ahead of last season. This summer, the Mariners broke the all-time transfer fee record in Indian Football as they spent over ₹2 Crores to secure his services.
Hugo has impressed everyone with his trickery and skills on the pitch. His pace, dribbling and passing accuracy stand out the most among his attributes. In the 58 matches that he had played so far in the ISL, he has 19 goals and 24 assists to his name. With a lot of quality changes in their squad, the Mariners will hope to clinch the title once again.
4. Airam Cabrera (FC Goa)
FC Goa have a good eye every time it comes to signing strikers. And with Igor Angulo shifting sides to Mumbai City, the Gaurs were forced to bring in a replacement. The club have acquired the services of Spanish striker Airam Cabrera ahead of ISL 2021-22. The Spaniard has the experience of playing in a number of countries across Europe.
Cabrera has struggled with his form in the last couple of seasons, but FC Goa have shown complete faith in him. In the last four seasons, FC Goa’s strikers have won three golden boots and the same will be expected from Airam as well. Can he replicate the form of his predecessors? Only time will tell.
3. Alvaro Vazquez (Kerala Blasters FC)
After a run of disappointing seasons, Kerala Blasters are desperate to turn things around. They have made noticeable changes and have also got a new coach on board. The Blasters struggled to get goals from their forwards last season. But this time, they have raised the bar and have signed Spanish striker Alvaro Vazquez.
Alvaro comes into the ISL with a big name and a lot will be expected from him. He has the experience of playing in the La Liga, Premier League and the Segunda Division. The 30-year-old will need to lead from the front in order to maximize Kerala Blasters’ chances to lift silverware.
2. Igor Angulo (Mumbai City FC)
The Islanders emerged victorious as they took home the domestic double last season. But just like every team, a champion team too needs a few changes. They have done their homework very well in the transfer window and with a new coach on board, Mumbai City will once again have their eyes on the top prizes. One of their best foreign acquisitions for this season would be the reigning Golden Boot winner Igor Angulo.
At 37, Angulo has already proved his worth in the league. He came in a with a big reputation last year and lived up to everyone’s expectations too. He netted in 14 goals in 21 matches and led FC Goa to yet another top-four finish. Angulo is one of the most lethal strikers in India right now and his inclusion to the Islanders’ squad makes them even stronger ahead of the ISL 2021-22 season.
1. Jonathas De Jesus (Odisha FC)
The top ranked player on our list is none other than Odisha FC’s Jonathas De Jesus. The club finished at the 11th spot last season. However, they have roped in a number of top players since then and the 32-year-old joins the club following a brief stint in the UAE with Hatta.
He has the experience of playing in the La Liga, Premier League, Serie A, Bundesliga, Eredivisie and the UEFA Europa League among others. Jonathas been scoring goals regularly, which can make him any defender’s nightmare. Last season, he scored six goals in 10 matches and Odisha FC will hope he carries on with the same momentum. The Brazilian striker will be the highest-paid player in the league, but can he justify his price tag? Let’s wait and watch.