The players left a mark in Indian football in their short time with the clubs.
In its formative years, the Indian Super League (ISL) teams opted to give their players short, season-long contracts in which they’d be paid for the months they played, before being re-hired for next season. But, this method didn’t seem so feasible in order for the league to be recognized as a vibrant competition. So, teams have changed their appoach.
Now, players are given multiple-year contracts, which tie them to their clubs, not allowing them to play for others in the off-season. While the clubs opt to buy players outright in multi-year deals these days, the stance with expensive foreign players is different. Only a handful foreigners are signed to long-term contracts, with many being loaned in as a short-term solution for clubs. Some loan spells have been disappointing, but some have really helped the clubs put on impressive performances. Here we look at five successful loan signings in ISL history.
5. Aridane Santana
The player leading Odisha FC’s push for a playoffs spot in the ISL 2019-20 season was Aridane Santana — the Spanish striker Josep Gombau signed to give his squad a much-needed boost last term. An experienced striker with all the necessary traits to succeed in the ISL, Aridane acted as Odisha’s knight in shining armour in the first half of the campaign.
He made 14 appearances, scoring nine goals and making two assists. But, the exhaustion of the regular games eventually took a toll on the 30-year-old, who picked up a bad injury which ruled him out of the season. While not retained for next term, Santana’s brilliant work leading the line for Odisha will be remembered for a long time!
4. Jakub Podany
Jakub Podany turned out to be a real cunning signing for ATK (then known as Atletico de Kolkata) because of how he remained under the radar for a long time. Indeed, with other foreigners like Luis Garcia and Borja Fernandez hogging the spotlight, the Czech Republic midfielder worked as the engine of the team.
He made 11 appearances, scoring two goals and assisting one, but his hard-working personality helped solidify Antonio Habas’ gritty side. With his impressive defensive contribution and tendency to cover a lot of ground, Podany became one of the underrated heroes of their title-winning campaign in 2014 and enjoyed a really good loan stint before returning home.
3. Bruno Pelissari
Bruno Pelissari was one of the early heroes for Chennaiyin FC in the ISL, when they made good use of their robust scouting system to sign the young Brazilian. The attacking midfielder made a great impression in his first season at Chennaiyin before being brought back on loan for Season 2.
It was in Chennaiyin’s first-ever ISL-winning campaign in 2015 that Pelissari really shone through as the enforcer in their attack. He scored thrice and provided an assist, memorably scoring in the thrilling final win over FC Goa as well. Pelissari was one of the earliest proofs that loan recruits could be highly effective for ISL clubs.
2. Raphael Augusto
Raphael Augusto arrived in India with not the best reputation because of his struggles in Brazil and various failed loan spells, meaning Chennaiyin FC were taking a big gamble on him. But, the Brazilian fit in really well into his new surroundings, operating with panache in the Marina Machans’ midfield.
He only scored one goal, but created a lot of chances in each game using his impressive creativity, while also fighting hard for possession in midfield. Augusto might’ve missed the final as Chennaiyin went onto win their first-ever title, but his inspired performances convinced them to sign him on a permanent basis and the Brazilian has since become a mainstay in the ISL.
1. Stiven Mendoza
He only spent two seasons in the ISL, but Stiven Mendoza has done enough to warrant the tag of one of the best foreign recruits in the history of the competition. After a decent debut season in the first edition, where he scored four goals in nine appearances, Mendoza really flourished in the 2015 campaign. He evolved into an absolute goal machine, embarrassing defenders with his blistering movement and lethal instincts to score past whoever came in his way.
He scored 13 goals and provided three assists for Chennaiyin in their title-winning season and who can forget his heroics in the final? Mendoza scored an amazing winner in the dying moments to win the Marina Machans the game in the most dramatic way possible. The Colombian bagged the Golden Boot along with the Hero of the League award. Moreover, that season acted as a catalyst in his career, with Mendoza later playing in Ligue 1 with Amiens and also making his international debut for Colombia.