The three-time champions have had a wonderful stint in the Indian Super League so far and much more exciting times await.
ATK reclaimed their place as the most successful team in Indian Super League (ISL) history by winning their third title in six seasons recently. Now, they move into a new era, having merged with Kolkata powerhouses Mohun Bagan to create a super-team guaranteed to challenge at the top of the league in years to come.
However, before this move, ATK have managed a lot of success in their short history. From being inaugural ISL champions, to all the highs and lows, they’ve seen and done it all. In doing so, they’ve also given a platform to many unique players to shine for the Red and Whites. While some disappointed, a few others influenced their success as cornerstones. As the Kolkata giants get ready to script a new chapter in their history, we look at their all-time best XI.
Goalkeeper: Arindam Bhattacharya
Beating Debjit Majumder to the spot, Arindam Bhattacharya has experienced all the ups and downs with ATK since arriving in 2018. Despite his side’s struggles in his initial seasons, the goalkeeper himself did reasonably well, keeping clean-sheets and helping them win as many points as possible. The Tata Football Academy product hit his peak under Antonio Habas this season, maintaining one of the best defensive records in the league with a stable backline.
Indeed, he kept nine clean-sheets in the previous term with ATK, thus becoming the most successful goalkeeper in the club’s history with 13. Arindam’s solid shot-stopping ability, confidence and leadership skills have clearly benefited the team.
Right-Back: Pritam Kotal
Pritam Kotal was signed by ATK for a very high fee from Delhi Dynamos, but the gamble on the right-back has been well worth it. The local lad added composure, desire and a winning mentality to the team since arriving. He’s not only helped fortify the backline, but has also been the leader they lacked in their disappointing campaigns.
Kotal also showed impressive versatility by operating as a makeshift centre-back under Antonio Habas, excelling in the role to maintain an impeccable record last season. With his superb game-reading ability, assertive style and drive, ATK have found their fix in that position.
During their initial years, ATK’s original Spanish contingent was responsible for all their success. Tiri was one impeccable signing who earned them the reputation of possessing the meanest defence in the ISL during his stay at the club. The Spaniard joined them in their second season thanks to their alliance with Atletico Madrid and proved to be a revelation.
With his no-nonsense style of defending, he shutout the best strikers with ease and dominated the league. Tiri also won the ISL title with ATK in 2016 and despite leaving a year later, he remains perhaps the most consistent foreign defender in their history.
Centre-Back: Sumit Rathi
After their inception, ATK took a slow approach to creating their own youth system. They set up an academy and brought onboard veteran coach Sanjoy Sen to look after the process. Last season, Sumit Rathi emerged as the brightest prospect to come out of their setup. He did their youth system proud by impressing Habas and penning a permanent spot for himself in the starting XI.
With his solid tackling ability, aerial prowess and high energy levels, Rathi complimented Kotal and Agus Garcia perfectly to create an indomitable backline. His passing prowess and composure also helped ATK move the ball forward, while his defensive sturdiness helped them rack up clean-sheets. Rathi was awarded the ISL Emerging Player of the Season award for his heroics and ensured that he’ll be a constant figure in the squad for years to come.
Left-Back: Prabir Das
Much like Kotal, Prabir Das has also been the local hero for ATK over the last few seasons. He’s maintained impressive consistency with his sturdy defensive work and more importantly his ability to move forward with the ball. Despite missing the 2018-19 campaign, Das has shone for the Kolkata giants whenever he played and helped them win two ISL titles.
He stepped up last season, providing five assists with his excellent crossing ability and chemistry with teammates. Das’ versatility means he has played in a number of positions, including at left-back for ATK and has been an effective utility player.
Right Winger: Jayesh Rane
After emerging as a promising prospect at Aizawl FC in their I-League title-winning season, Jayesh Rane was picked up by ATK in 2017. The first few seasons went sour as the managers didn’t know how to utilize him properly, causing timely malfunctions in his game. But, Rane shone under Antonio Habas, playing in a number of different roles throughout the campaign.
With his energy, creativity and tenacity in midfield, he helped ATK march forward and created quite a few chances as well. Despite often getting benched, Rane is actually their most-capped Indian player of all-time! By working as an effective utility attacker, he has definitely acted as a discreet ace for the Kolkata side.
Central Midfield: Borja Fernandez
Arguably ATK’s greatest-ever captain, Borja Fernandez instilled a spirit and grit into the team since arriving in their inaugural season. He eclipsed ‘marquee star’ Luis Garcia in the first campaign and was handed the captaincy the next season. In his three years at ATK, he helped them win the ISL title twice.
With his defensive fortitude, passing ability and aggressiveness in midfield, he added a lot of bite to their style. Fernandez still remains the most-capped foreigner in their history, with his excellent work controlling their tempo from midfield helping the team grind their way to success in the first few seasons.
Central Midfield: Arata Izumi
The stylish midfielder only spent a single season with ATK, but made a big mark during the second ISL campaign. Izumi’s proactive demeanour added a bigger threat to their attack, as he often wandered into dangerous areas to push through chances.
Not only was Izumi a creative outlet with his clever defence-splitting passes and crosses, but he was also extremely clinical. He scored five goals in 11 appearances for ATK, often emerging as a wildcard in their attack. Izumi possessed the ‘X-factor’ that sparked their attack and helped them finish the league stage with the second-best goal-difference.
Left Winger: Sameehg Doutie
The South African winger quickly became a fan-favourite at ATK because of his exciting ability with the ball. Doutie added that special sauce to the Kolkata side’s attack when he arrived, with his trickery down the wings causing a lot of problems for opposition defenders. Doutie excelled at bursting down the wings, getting past defenders and carrying the ball forward.
He knew how to find his strikers with his precise delivery and never shied away from getting in on the action. The South African also scored some important goals. Ever since he left, ATK have found it difficult to find a winger like Doutie, which proves how important he was for them.
Forward: Iain Hume
ATK’s quest to become the best in the land was solidified when they signed Iain Hume from Kerala Blasters in 2015, a deal which proved to be a game-changer. The Canadian striker used all his experience to be a terror for ATK’s opposition, being an absolute goal-machine for the Kolkata side.
With his determination, grit and clinical instincts to find scoring options, he acted as ATK’s driving force during his two seasons at the club. Hume scored 18 goals for them and remains their top goalscorer of all-time. He scored the most amount of hat-tricks (2), won them games on a consistent basis and played a big part in winning them the ISL title in 2016, solidifying himself as one of their best players in the league.
Forward: Roy Krishna
After Hume’s arrival, ATK just couldn’t seem to find a top-class striker as consistent or prolific as him. Then they snapped up Roy Krishna after witnessing his heroics in the A-League. Despite paying bug bucks for him, the risk paid off spectacularly. Krishna was a breath of fresh air for the fans, with his spectacular eye for goal sparking life into Antonio Habas’ side.
He worked hard to outwit defenders, went past them easily and also created a lot of chances for his side. Krishna ended the season with 15 goals, just three less than what Hume managed in two seasons! As he prepares to play for the new entity, it’s safe to say he will continue to amaze fans with his goalscoring ability.