With Indian Super League set to kick off soon, Khel Now looks at the managerial signings the clubs have made.
Atletico de Kolkata – Teddy Sheringham
Many Atletico de Kolkata fans balked at losing ISL-winning manager Jose Molina when he announced his departure in December 2016. The Bengal Tigers, however, have brought down an upgrade in one-time Champions League winner Teddy Sheringham. Despite his pedigree as a footballer, he has hardly been known for his managerial prowess as his one-year stint at Stevenage remains his only taste of football management. At 51, he may only be here for an easy paycheck; however, the knowledge he had acquired playing for masterminds such as Alex Ferugson and Glenn Hoddle ought to suffice to nurture the Indian talents.
Under the former Atletico de Madrid ‘keeper, they played possession football; however, with a former Manchester United player coming in as his replacement and the appointment of Ashley Westwood as Technical Director, one can expect them to play the English game as they look to successfully defend the ISL title. Numbers are not on their side, though, as their new manager has a measly 21% win record, the worst record a manager has had in Stevenage’s 46-year history, as a manager.
Bengaluru – Albert Roca
With Bengaluru underperforming in this final I-League season, Albert Roca came under the microscope, as many alleged that attributed his tactical decisions to the downfall. However, the Spaniard refused to accept criticism as he claimed that possession-based football is the future of Indian football. In Bengaluru’s first season in ISL, he can either prove a revolutionary as he boosts the technical acumen of his personnel. He can also guide the team to a bottom-half finish as his players struggle to build up plays from deep. With two Spanish coaches working under him and two Spaniards already signed, one can expect him to guide them to the play-offs, at the very least.
The Blues have only been able to retain Sunil Chhetri and Udanta Singh, so they now need to build the team from scratch. Given Bengaluru’s well-defined structure, though, odds are low that they will build on their I-League laurels.
Chennaiyin – John Gregory
Chennaiyin largely built around coach Marco Materazzi as they saw their talismans Bojan Djordic, Elano Blumer, Stiven Mendoza and Alessandro Nesta all left after one season or two. With his failing to make the play-offs last season, he left the club, leaving the Marina Machans looking for an able replacement. In John Gregory, they have managed to snap up an upgrade.
A veteran manager, the Englishman has managed 11 seasons, including four seasons with Aston Villa in Premier League, besides managing clubs in Kazakhstan and Israel. Known for his ability to nurture young talents, he seems to share ideologies with the Chennai club. Despite his experience, his career has been on a steady decline since his Premiership days, so one wonders if he could bring the ISL trophy back to Chennai as he promised during his first interview with Chennaiyin’s official website.
Delhi Dynamos – Miguel Angel Portugal
Delhi Dynamos signed their fourth manager in four seasons earlier this summer when they brought down Spanish manager Miguel Angel Portugal. Having worked with Real Madrid for seven seasons. He may be relatively unknown to the ISL audience, yet he, a 61-year-old veteran, has managed various clubs for over 12 years in Algeria, Brazil, Spain and Bolivia. In his only season in Bolivia, he lifted Liga de Fútbol Profesional Boliviano title, the country’s top-flight title. The Dynamos’ management, who have proven ever-willing to scour the market for managers, will likely not mind if he decides to leave after repeating the feat in India.
As he has managed eight full seasons in Spain, he may join elect to enforce possession football upon his personnel. However, a manager of his age ought to be flexible enough to tweak his ideology as he will likely not get the players he may want to work with.
Goa – Sergio Lobera
Goa finally severed ties with Zico last season on the back of a horrendous season that saw them finish at the rock bottom of the ISL table. In comes Sergio Lobera to replace him at the helm; the 40-year-old tactician signed a two-year contract last month. He began his managerial career at a tender age of 20, managing Barcelona’s youth side in 1997. He remained at the helm for nine seasons before managing their C side for one season. Subsequent managerial positions hardly bore fruits as he left Spain seven seasons later to manage in Morocco, where he spent three years.
Given his Barcelona roots, his adopting Spanish football is now a certainty although Goa has been the most Brazilian team in the history of the three-year-old competition. Given his ability to help players adapt to his philosophy swiftly, though, one can expect him to produce results straightaway. Fatorda Stadium saw a six percent decline in average attendance last year, yet one can expect him to boost the attendance as he is also known to instill maturity, self-confidence and tendency to excel as a team in his players.
Jameshedpur – Steve Coppell
With Bengaluru already an established team, Jamshedpur are easily the fish out of water this season. Despite proving newbies, they have already laid out the plans as they have raided Kerala Blasters for the side’s two personages – Steve Coppell and veteran Indian footballer Ishfaq Ahmed. Having brought down arguably the division’s most accomplished manager in Steve Coppell, who brings 19 seasons of top-level managerial experience in England with him. Given his Kerala stint, he now knows ISL inside out to help the Tata Steel side become an Indian heavyweight straightaway.
A Manchester United legend, he will look to form an attacking side in which wingers act as the major source of threat. As he will likely have a say in which players the club signs, one may tout him to create a formidable team.
Kerala Blasters – Rene Meulensteen
Many managerial stalwarts, including Stuart Pearce, were contacted over a move to Kerala Blasters all summer, but the Yellow Submarine have elected to replace one Manchester United legend with another as René Meulensteen replaces Steve Coppell. Blasters’ desire to adopt a certain brand of football in a league that sees clubs concoct teams without much planning deserves appreciation. With talismans CK Vineeth and Sandesh Jhingan opting to leave Bengaluru in favour of the Kerala outfit, odds are low that the two-time finalists wil espouse a style similar to the one they did last season.
Meulensteen’s playing career is hardly impressive, but his 12 years – as manager of Youth and Reserves and Ferguson’s assistant – at Old Trafford gives the Manjapada enough reasons to be excited about the next season. With Indian mastermind Thangboi Singto’s being signed as his assistant, the Dutchman will face zero problem identifying or connecting with the local talents.
Mumbai City – Alexandre Guimaraes
With Alexandre Guimaraes helping Mumbai City, who had finished seventh and sixth in the opening seasons, finish atop the ISL table, it is not surprising to know that they have brought him back this season. The Costa Rican manager formed undoubtedly the most balanced side in the division last season as they outscored all but one team and boasted the best defensive record.
The Brazil-born former Costa Rican international has been managing since 1994, with his journeyman career seeing him manage in Costa Rica, China, Panama, United Arab Emirates, Mexico and Guatemala. However, he has not won a title, ever; he will look to break the duck this season, lifting Mumbai’s maiden ISL title. To be anywhere close to achieve what he did last season, though, he may need someone in the mould of Diego Forlan, last season’s top-scorer, though.
NorthEast United – Joao Carlos Pires de Deus
NorthEast United have been unable to hand their vociferous fan base what they rightfully deserve as they remain only a bottom-half club. Their average league position of 6 speaks for itself. Despite bringing in top-class tacticians such as Ricki Herbert, Cesar Farias and Nelo Vingada in the past, they have been unable to qualify for the play-offs in all three attempts.
Their fourth managerial appointment hardly seems the move that will see the club be on the level of their I-League counterparts as they have signed Joao Carlos Pires de Deus, a 40-year-old manager who had never turned out for any top division club. His only season as a top-flight manager saw his side, Gil Vicente, finish two places above the relegation zone. The Highlanders will now need to sign top-class players to even have a chance of qualifying for play-offs.
Pune City – Antonio Lopez Habas
Antonio Habas becomes the only tactician to manage a side for the fourth consecutive season in ISL as he returns to Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex later this year. Additionally, he is the only ISL-winning coach in the division today. However, he failed to reach the semi-finals with Pune City last season after reaching that stage in all two seasons at Atletico de Kolkata.
Pune, who boast a fantastic structure, ought to let the manager have the final say with regards to signings as opposed to the practice followed in most other ISL clubs. Accordingly, the Spaniard, who has five more Spaniards working under him, will likely choose his meticulously, so they fit his philosophy to a tee. Should the stars align, he will become the most accomplished ISL manager so far.