The 75th edition of the competition yielded some exciting prospects for the future.

Last season, Kerala became the state to house the champions of the Santosh Trophy, the I-League, the Indian Women’s League, and the finalists of the ISL. As they defeated West Bengal in a nervy penalty shootout in the finals, 26,000 fans roared into rapture. The final at the Payyanad Stadium was only a mere glimpse of a brilliant tournament that produced some miraculous moments. More so, it brought mature and composed players with immense potential to the fore.

After the competition concluded, a variety of clubs were fighting to scout and sign these names. Prominent names like Jijo Joseph and Jesin TK have not secured any moves till now, even after being linked to some ISL sides. However, the likes of Monotosh Chakladar and Soyal Joshy penned deals with some renowned clubs.

Let us now take a look at the top five Santosh trophy players signed by ISL/I-League clubs.

5. Ankith Padmanabhan (Bengaluru FC)

Padmanabhan was part of the resolute Karnataka squad that bowed out of the Santosh Trophy semi-finals to eventual winners Kerala. Consequently, his hometown club, Bengaluru FC was impressed by his stint and decided to hand him a three-year deal. The Bengaluru boy has represented Young Challengers FC, Ozone FC Bengaluru, and more recently, Kickstart FC in the BDFA Super League.

A prolific and energetic striker, he has also been part of the Blues’ youth development program. This familiarity as well as six goals in eight games in the BDFA Super League paved the way for his signing.

4. Sujit Singh (East Bengal) 

Sujit Singh scored in the friendly against India ahead of their AFC Asian Cup Third Round Qualifiers.

Singh secured a move to East Bengal’s first team after being a part of the youth team and showcasing his skills in the Santosh Trophy. Just 18, the midfielder was a vital cog of the Bengal team as he helped them reach the finals. His physical agility is unmatched and was highlighted repeatedly as he helped in creating dangerous central overlaps. A tendency to drift into the false nine role would also mean he is a direct goal threat. Additionally, Singh played brilliant football against India in a friendly prior to the AFC Asian Cup Third Round Qualifiers and also secured a goal. In June, he earned a call from India’s U-20 side. The 18-year-old went on to represent the country in the recently concluded SAFF U-20 Championship. The Red & Gold Brigade will be happy to secure him as one of their many signings after a lacklustre 2021/22 season.

3. Soyal Joshy (Hyderabad FC) 

Hyderabad FC did not have to search far and wide as they looked to replace the outgoing Ashish Rai with a player of similar guile. A natural right-back, Joshy played a crucial role in Golden Threads FC’s Kerala Premier League title victory. With two goals in the competition and a resolute showcase in attack for Kerala in the Santosh trophy, he displayed his versatility. Following this, the Nizams tied him down to a three-year deal till the end of the 2024-25 season. Joshy was delighted to join the ISL’s reigning champions and will look forward to winning titles with his new teammates.

2. Sudheer Kotikela (Bengaluru FC)

Sudheer Kotikela played his first BFC match against Kodagu FC in the Puttaiah Memorial Cup on 11th August. (Courtesy: BFC Media)

Bengaluru FC made another notable addition, signing Karnataka’s Sudheer Kotikela. With the departures of Ashique Kurnuiyan and Cleiton Silva, it became all the more important to have the right balance of youth and experience in the squad. The young forward’s entry on a two-year deal will be supplemented by that of veteran Roy Krishna. Hubli-born Kotikela had a fine run with nine goals for Kickstart FC in the 2020-21BDFA Super Division League. He followed that up with an outstanding tally of eight goals in the Santosh Trophy; only one short of eventual top-scorer Jesin TK. On 11th August, the lad made his debut for the club in a match against Podagu FC in the Puttaiah Memorial Cup.

1. Monotosh Chakladar (Chennaiyin FC)

Who else but the captain of the finalists to make the top of the list? Aged 24, Chakladar displayed maturity beyond his years in his side’s Santosh Trophy run. Despite losing by a gilt-edged margin, the no-nonsense centre-back was resolute at the heart of defence. The former Gokulam Kerala and East Bengal man was roped in by two-time champions Chennaiyin FC on a multi-year deal.

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