The midfielder has represented Ukraine at the U-17 and U-18 level.

Kerala Blasters FC have announced the signing of Ukrainian Ivan Kaliuzhnyi for the 2022-23 Indian Super League season. The 24-year-old has joined the Yellow Army on loan from Ukrainian Premier League club FK Oleksandriya. His contract runs till May 31, 2023.

This is Kerala Blasters’ third foreign signing this season, coming after the acquisitions of Apostolos Giannou and Victor Mongil. The Ukrainian has spent the majority of his career in his home country. He has made 53 Persha Liga appearances (second-tier Ukrainian League) and 24 Ukrainian Premier League outings.  

The Tuskers missed out on the title last season by a whisker. Several key players such as Alvaro Vasquez, Vincy Baretto, Enes Sipovic, and Sanjeev Stalin have also departed. Hardworking forward Jorge Pereyra Diaz hasn’t signed for the upcoming season either. In situations such as these, the arrival of Ivan Kaliuzhnyi brings much relief to the team and the fans. 

His versatility in playing at different positions – central midfielder, centre-back, and central defensive midfielder, will be of massive help to head coach Ivan Vukomanovic. The Ukrainian youngster will play an instrumental role as the Tuskers gun for the title yet again in the coming season.

Prior Experiences

Ivan Kaliuzhnyi was born in Zolochiv Raion, a district of Kharkiv Oblast in Ukraine, and is a product of the sporting schools of Kharkiv. He joined Metalist Kharkiv as a youth in 2008. By the time he graduated from the youth setup, he had represented the U-17 and U-18 national teams. 

Kaliuzhyni went on to join Dynamo Kyiv in 2015 and also played in the UEFA Youth League. His senior career started with a loan to FC Metalist 1925 Kharkiv in the Ukrainian second division. He was also loaned to Rukh Lviv, another fellow club in the second-tier. In his debut season for Rukh, the side got promoted to the Ukrainian Premier League.

Ivan Kaliuzhnyi has played 100 matches in his career. (Courtesy: Twitter)

Thus, the midfielder went on to make his debut in the Ukrainian top-tier for in 2020. After his incredible stint with Rukh, he signed with Oleksandriya in 2021. The 24-year-old appeared 23 times for the club, scoring two goals and providing four assists in the campaign.

Kaliuzhnyi spent a brief period on loan with Iceland’s top division team Keflavik during the 2021-22 season before signing with the Blasters.

Type of player

The 6’2″ Ukrainian is frequently utilized as a central midfielder. His excellent ability to handle the ball in tight spaces gives him an edge over the opposition players. 

Kaliuzhnyi is comfortable in the role of a box-to-box midfielder as well. While the team is in the attacking phase, he lurks just outside the penalty area. This allows him to press in order to win the ball back when his team loses possession of it.

He is also adept in glancing long-rangers at goal from outside the penalty box. He presses loose balls in the midfield and is handy at both recycling it or creating an attacking opportunity.  

While defending, the Ukrainian is ready to put his body on the line and block shots from the opposition. He is always quick to sniff a counter-attack and switch to the defensive mode.

What does he bring to the team?

Ivan Kaliuzhnyi playing for Rukh Lviv. (Courtesy: Twitter)

The combination of Sahal Abdul Samad, Adrian Luna, and Ivan Kaliuzhnyi could be lethal with the ball. Adding to this, the Greek-Australian striker Apostolos Giannou would do wonders and create a formidable attack for the Tuskers in the upcoming season. The Ukrainian’s combination in the middle of the pitch with Jeakson Singh will also help the Indian youngster learn a thing or two.

The youngster’s versatility and skillset will act vital to Kerala Blasters as they aim to clinch their first ISL title. The Blasters have faced three defeats in the finals. The new acquisition has a massive potential to turn the tide in their favour and grab the silverware.

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