The custodians were hard to beat under the bar.

The Indian Super League will mark its ninth season when it kicks off later this year. Since its inception in 2014, it has helped transform Indian football. The extra funding put in by the ISL teams and organizers has helped bring a sense of professionalism to the sport. Players receive more wages than they did before the ISL came around. There are better training facilities available and the coaching standards have gotten higher. The Indian players are also now getting to go toe-to-toe with foreign players of high standards. A number of players have benefited from that. But the possible type of footballers to have improved the most are the goalkeepers.

Over the decades, India’s goalkeepers have often been its saving grace. With the ISL providing better training standards for them, some goalkeepers have improved and enjoyed memorable stints with the clubs. With that being said, let’s look at the top five goalkeepers in ISL history.

5. Subrata Paul

The ‘Spiderman’ of Indian football was in his prime just about when the ISL was formed. He was a priority pick for Mumbai City FC in the 2014 ISL draft, beginning his career in the league with them. Paul played with them for two seasons, putting in really impressive performances to save them from trouble. His form in 2015 was especially notable, but he was unable to help them qualify for the playoffs.

Subrata Paul training at Hyderabad FC.

After that, the goalkeeper went on to play for the likes of NorthEast United, Jamshedpur FC, Hyderabad FC as well as East Bengal in the ISL. Last season, he even donned the ATK Mohun Bagan colours. In total, he has made 95 appearances in the competition so far. In that, he’s kept 28 clean sheets, made 271 saves and managed a decent 67.75% save percentage. Subrata Paul even won the Golden Glove award in the 2017/18 season with Jamshedpur, keeping seven clean sheets and only conceding 15 goals that season.

4. Apoula Edel

Over the years, Indian goalkeepers have normally dominated the ISL. As teams are only afforded a limited number of foreign players, most refrain from signing a foreigner in goal. Right now, every single ISL club’s starting goalkeeper is Indian. But that wasn’t the case in the competition’s early years. The clubs used to deploy foreign players under the sticks to use up one foreign slot.

Apoula Edel is perhaps the most decorated foreign goalkeeper in the league’s history. He played three seasons in the ISL, starting with Atletico de Kolkata in 2014. The ex-PSG goalkeeper won the ISL title with both the Kolkata franchise (2014) and Chennaiyin FC (2015). He also won the Golden Glove in 2015, keeping six clean sheets in 13 appearances. The Armenian went on to play for FC Pune City in the 2016 season. He made 35 ISL appearances in total and enjoyed the reputation of being a brilliant shot-stopper.

3. Arindam Bhattacharya

A Tata Football Academy (TFA) graduate, Arindam Bhattacharya’s career elevated once the ISL started. He was picked up by FC Pune City in 2014, spending three seasons on loan with them as a backup goalkeeper. Bhattacharya only appeared seven times for them before moving to Mumbai City in 2017. After a short spell with the Islanders, he joined ATK in 2018 and prospered immensely.

He was one of the better players in ATK’s topsy-turvy years before the club joined hands with Mohun Bagan in 2020. In the 2020/21 season with ATK Mohun Bagan, he won the Golden Glove by keeping 10 clean sheets in 23 appearances and conceding only 17 goals! Bhattacharya spent the last season with SC East Bengal. At the Red & Golds, he struggled in being consistent due to injuries. Despite that, the 32-year-old remains one of ISL’s brightest goalkeepers. In 90 ISL appearances, he has kept 30 clean sheets – the third for any goalkeeper in the league’s history!  

2. Amrinder Singh

Amrinder Singh won the ISL double at Mumbai City in 2020/21.

After starting his professional career at Pune FC, Amrinder Singh got his first taste of the ISL in 2015. He joined ATK on loan for the 2015 season, making 13 appearances for them. But his most successful stint started after joining Mumbai City a year later. Singh spent five seasons with the Islanders before making a move to ATK Mohun Bagan in 2021. He made 84 appearances for the Mumbai-based outfit, being among the highest in the club’s history.

Singh even won the Golden Glove in his debut season with Mumbai, with three clean sheets in six appearances. After joining ATK Mohun Bagan last year, he enjoyed a mixed bag of a time and is no longer an undisputed no.1. However, the 29-year-old still remains one of the best goalkeepers the ISL has seen. He’s made 117 appearances in total, keeping 34 clean sheets – more than any other goalkeeper in the competition.

1. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu

Ever since returning from his stint with Stabaek in 2017, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu has been one of the headlining stars of the ISL. He has been with Bengaluru FC throughout the period and helped them maintain a sturdy backline. Sandhu has helped in keeping one of the best defensive records for any ISL club over the last five seasons. He’s the only goalkeeper in ISL history to win the Golden Glove twice.

Gurpreet won it back-to-back in the 2018/19 and 2019/20 campaigns, keeping seven and 11 clean sheets, respectively. He has a total of 32 clean sheets under his belt, the second-highest in ISL history and only two less than Amrinder Singh – who has played 25 games more than him. Sandhu has appeared 92 times in the competition and has made 249 saves. Arguably, the country’s present no.1 is the best goalkeeper the ISL has witnessed.

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