Several high-profile names from Europe and around the world have come to India to play in the top flight.
The Indian Super League (ISL) might just be over six-years-old, but it has taken huge steps forward since its inception in 2014. With cash-rich owners investing in each club, Indian football has been able to see the evolution it had lacked for so long.
Not only has the ISL improved the basic infrastructure and quality of football in India, but has also attracted some big foreign talents over the years. While often accused of bringing in worn out, old household names to attract fans, the league has also poached star foreigners who were on the radar of a number of overseas clubs.
Ofcourse, the monetary aspect played a part, but the limelight, rising popularity of the ISL and Indian football tempted these stars to opt for this experience rather than playing for other clubs. Here, we look at three times ISL clubs beat competition to sign star players.
3. Dimitar Berbatov
Dimitar Berbatov’s career at Kerala Blasters wasn’t as eventful as many fans had hoped, but his signing itself was a statement of intent from the Blasters. After a short stint at Greek club PAOK, Berbatov spent quite some time as a free agent due to which the Blasters were able to sign him.
However, Championship club Swansea City were also interested in signing him during the summer of 2017, with then manager Bob Bradley confirming the Bulgarian ‘was on his radar.’ However, Kerala made a formidable offer to Berbatov and the prospect of an exciting new journey in India enticed the former Manchester United man to grace the ISL with his exquisite skills.
2. Roy Krishna
Roy Krishna turned out to be a season-defining signing for ATK last year, with the Kolkata club banking all their trust on the Fijian star given his amazing work in the A-League. After winning the Golden Boot with Wellington Phoenix, Krishna understandably found a lot of interest.
There were reported offers from the K-League and a number of Asian clubs were interested in snapping him up. But, ATK beat them all by making a big offer to Krishna, whose Bengali roots made playing in Kolkata an exciting opportunity for him. In the end, it was almost like a match made in heaven, as Krishna scored 15 goals and provided six assists to lead ATK to their third ISL title.
1. Diego Forlan
Mumbai City FC flexed their purchasing power in 2016, as they managed to sign former FIFA World Cup Golden Boot-winner Diego Forlan after a stint in Japan. However, they didn’t have it easy signing him. Forlan was on the radar of A-League side Brisbane Roar, but their off-field issues eased the Islanders’ chances of acquiring the forward.
Forlan had a pretty good season in the ISL, scoring five goals including a hat-trick against Kerala Blasters. He even guided Mumbai to the ISL playoffs, capping off a solid stay in India.