The Romanian also admitted that scoring against his former team Mumbai City felt a bit like revenge.
Lucian Goian joined Anant Tyagi for an interview on the ISL’s official Instagram handle, as he provided his thoughts on a variety of topics including his debut season in India, that late winner against Mumbai City FC to seal qualification for the playoffs and how Owen Coyle managed to script an unbelievable turnaround to guide them to the final last season.
Growing up in Romania, a young Lucian Goian idolized Alessandro del Piero and also admitted his admiration for Carles Puyol, the Brazilian Ronaldo, and Zinedine Zidane, citing them as role-models for everybody. Moreover, the love for football ran in his family as all three of his older brothers played the sport. Hence, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Goian grew up to become a professional player himself.
After four seasons in India’s top competition, the Romanian centre-back remains a popular figure in this land regardless of the jersey he pulls on. In his three-year stint at Mumbai, he attained a cult-figure status and established a unique connection with the fans. Having spent a majority of his playing days in the Romanian league, Goian was well-placed to highlight the difference between the ISL and the league in his native.
“First of all, the difference between the ISL and the Romanian league is that the ISL is better organized in terms of marketing, publicity, and facilities. In Romania, now teams have started to have good facilities. The attendance for games is much better in India because in Romania, except for three or four teams, not all the other teams have too many fans. Many teams are move from city-to-city to have fans,” he said.
Goian joined Mumbai in the third edition of the ISL when he was brought to the club by Alexandre Guimaraes, a manager he had played under for six months in China. The defender settled in seamlessly in his new surroundings and played a key role in Mumbai’s ascent to the top of the table in that campaign. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get past ATK in the semis, but the Romanian recalls those times fondly describing his teammates as “the best group I ever worked with.”
The 37-year-old remarked, “That was a really amazing season. It was my first season in India. The impact was great, but we also had amazing players with good qualities and we were a very good group. Outside the pitch, I remember it was a very difficult season, the season was short, every 2-3 days we were playing and we didn’t have too much time. The results were really good, I think we were unlucky in the semi-final against ATK and if we had qualified for the final, we could have been champions.”
In a recent episode in this series, Amrinder Singh had talked about his fantastic relationship with Goian. On this occasion, Goian lavished praise on the shot-stopper and talked about their time together at his previous club. “He is an amazing player, I think he is the best goalkeeper in India. I think Amrinder is a good player and a good character. He was a very good player for the group, as he was very involved in keeping the group together and keeping a good atmosphere,” he elaborated.
Despite being such a key figure at Mumbai, his time at the club came to an unceremonious end as the Islanders decided against extending his contract and allowed him to move to Chennai prior to the start of the last term. However, in poetic fashion, Chennaiyin narrowly defeated Mumbai to make it to the semis, courtesy of a 1-0 victory at the Mumbai Football Arena, with the goal that ended Mumbai’s run being scored by none other than Lucian Goian.
He revealed, “For me, I was very happy that I had my dream moment, I was happy for my goal, I was not dreaming to score a late goal, the goal that will help us qualify. I was feeling bad for Mumbai, but I was feeling a little bit like.. uhh…like a little revenge. To tell you honestly, this is the first time I say this, but I was really disappointed that Mumbai did not extend my contract because I think I deserved that and they still needed me because I was there for three years at the club, we did a fantastic job together and we started to build a good group.”
Having amassed only five points and four goals in the first six games, Chennaiyin FC found themselves at the basement of the league table and looked devoid of any inspiration, until Owen Coyle decided to stop by. In an astounding turn of events, the Marina Machans embarked on a sublime run, winning seven and drawing three, ensuring qualification with a game to spare.
Speaking about the incredible turnaround and the impact made by Coyle, Goian opined, “We started bad, we were not scoring and there was pressure on the people upfront. We were conceding goals and that was killing me because I am not used to conceding so many goals. We were not defending well to tell you honestly, I wasn’t happy with myself because it was tough, but later the club decided to change, to bring Owen Coyle to the team,” the defender began.
“He had some guts to take over the team in the situation we had. From the first moment he joined the team, he trusted us and was talking about champions. I am not lying, we were last on the table, but he was talking everyday in training, ‘Come on guys, we have to train better, we have to train more to become champions’ and we were looking at each other like ‘this guy is talking about champions, we are last on the table.”
Furthermore, the Romanian revealed that the group was almost completely new and hence it took them time to develop their relationship- on and off the field, which hampered their performances at the outset. However, the constant backing from the manager as well as the owners provided them the confidence to kick-start their campaign.
Anirudh Thapa and Lallianzuala Chhangte have been important players for their franchise and the young duo could play a vital part for club and country for years to come. They stepped up to the plate during different moments in the campaign and the Romanian believes that the duo will only get better.
He said, “They had an amazing season and I am very happy for them because they scored some very important goals. They are young and the national team needs young players like them. They can be better because they have amazing qualities. They both are training well and when you train and when you give to football; football gives you back the moments that you deserve.”
The central defender also expressed his views on Edwin Sydney Vanspaul, another young member of the squad that made a huge impression last season, with his dependable displays in midfield as well as at full-back and formed a dynamic duo with Thapa at the base of midfield for Chennai. Goian expressed delight at his progress and revealed that the group had to push him a bit in training, as they recognized his quality and was very happy when he was selected for the national team.
Interestingly, Goian shares a picture with Manchester United legend Paul Scholes. When asked about the image, he revealed that he got it when his Romanian side Dinamo Bucuresti played Manchester United in a third qualifying round game in the UEFA Champions League. Moreover, he opened up on the reason why he prefers the No.18 jersey, stating that his son Luca was born on the 18th of August.
There have been calls in recent months to reduce the number of foreigners on the pitch to four, implementing the 3+1 rule in the hope that other promising young Indian players will receive more opportunities to express themselves on the big stage. However, Goian doesn’t think it would be the right move and feels that the presence of foreign players could improve the young up-and-coming local talents.
“Bringing good foreigner coaches will help the ISL. It will help the young players and with some experienced players they can improve a lot. Also, I wanted to say this a long time ago, I read somewhere they are thinking of reducing the foreign players, I don’t think it is a good idea because to improve you still need to give the same number of foreign players for 3-4 years because the players coming from behind can improve,” he concluded.