The quality of the team is exemplified by the fact that many high-profile names could only make the bench.
Indian Football saw the rise of many local talents over the recently concluded seasons, with both the I-League and ISL profiting from some really amazing players in their squads. Whilst the Indian players have been at the centre of attention, the foreigners have also made their impact and have had an influence on how successful their teams were in this season.
Both the I-League and ISL winners in Minerva Punjab and Chennaiyin FC had some crucial foreign players who complimented their Indian core really well, and the other successful teams also made some impressive foreign signings which proved to be crucial at the end of the season. With the foreigners yet again playing a big part in influencing the growth of Indian Football, Khel Now takes a look at the Foreign Team Of The Season.
Goalkeeper: Paul Rachubka(Kerala Blasters)
Rachubka made 12 appearances for the southerners
While most of the Indian clubs decided to go with an Indian goalkeeper into the season(knowing how prolific they are), Kerala Blasters decided to get a foreigner in Paul Rachubka, a decision which proved to be really fruitful. In his debut season for the Blasters, Rachubka was an absolute rock in goal for them and impressed in some stunning performances throughout the season.
Blasters defence wasn’t the strongest consistently, but Rachubka made sure he covered up their mistakes by making some stunning saves and saving his side from humiliation. In the 12 matches he played, Rachubka got 5 clean sheets and made numerous important saves to keep his side alive in matches. He used his experience well to guide his defenders and made sure they were confident ahead of him, as he used his size to his advantage by making his presence felt in matches. He had a save percentage of almost 70% in the ISL season, proving just how vital he was to saving Kerala’s woes throughout the season.
Right-Back: Inigo Calderon(Chennaiyin FC)
If one player embodied the spirit of Chennaiyin FC this season, it had to be Inigo Calderon who put his absolute soul into the matches to make sure his side got the victories they needed to win their 2nd ISL title. Not many were completely convinced when Chennaiyin decided to field a 36-year old defender in their right-back spot, but Calderon quickly silenced his doubters with a string of terrific performances which not only saw him thwarting some of the best wingers in the country but be prolific going forward as well!
Being 36-year-old, Calderon played 20 of 21 matches on offer for Chennaiyin FC
Calderon scored three crucial goals for Chennaiyin during their season and was never afraid to go into attack to help his side. He was excellent defensively, proving why having a Spanish core is always prolific and he made 100 clearances, 22 blocks and 25 interceptions throughout the tournament. He was a standout in the ISL final as well where he made two amazing blocks off the line and kept his side in the game. Calderon received the “Fittest Player Of The Season” award at the age of 36, proving just how much of an energetic and unrelenting force he was for the Marina Machans throughout the season.
Center-Back: Andre Bikey(Jamshedpur FC)
Time and again, Bikey proved to be solid for the Tata club
Jamshedpur FC established themselves as the “Steel” of the ISL in their inaugural season where the team from the “Steel City” was absolute rock solid defensively. While Jamshedpur had some terrific Indian defensive outlets in the likes of Anas Edathodika & Subrata Pal, they also made some clever foreign signings and Andre Bikey was one of them. The powerful defender made his presence felt with his intimidating nature and used his strength to his advantage to make life difficult for his opposition.
Bikey played a big part in his companion Subrata Pal winning the Golden Glove award as it was with Bikey ahead of him that he attained so many clean sheets throughout the season. The towering 6ft defender was as strong as he was fast, making 60 clearances and 25 tackles in his 12 matches for his side. He was a bit rough at times, but he made sure to assert his dominance and make the wingers almost fear him. It was a terrific debut-season for Bikey, whose side just missed out on qualifications for the knockout rounds but won hearts all around.
Center-Back: Mailson Alves(Chennaiyin FC)
Whilst his compatriot Inigo Calderon was much more head-on and fearless in making his presence felt, Mailson Alves was almost a silent guardian at the heart of the defense of Chennaiyin FC in their amazing season. Alves wasn’t really seen that often in a defense which also had ISL winner and captain Henrique Sereno to support him, but he was really good in each and every match he played. Not only that, but he was prolific in set-pieces as well and turned out to be an absolute asset to his team in the end.
Mailson lead Chennaiyin FC with a brace in the final towards the ISL trophy
Alves’ defensive work was top-notch throughout the season where he complimented Sereno really well and did his work superbly as well, making 163 clearances, 30 blocks and 19 interceptions throughout the season. His man-marking work was amazing as well, which was well seen in the ISL final when he marked Miku in a terrific manner. It was well and truly his ISL final, where he scored an amazing brace and played a big part in his side’s victory. He was adjourned Hero of the Match for his final performance, as he truly established himself as a hero among the Super Machans for his effective work throughout the season.
Left-Back: Eric Dano(Minerva Punjab FC)
Dano (right) was a leadership figure in the Minerva Punjab squad
Minerva Punjab pulled off a miracle this season by shocking everyone and winning the I-League title and something which played a big part in their win was their defensive work. Punjab were excellently organized in defence and had some real leaders to influence the whole side, and one of those leaders was the big-man Eric Dano himself. The new-signing for Punjab proved to be a vital player in the centre of defence, making his presence felt and not letting anyone penetrate his defence.
Minerva finished the season with an amazing seven clean-sheets and Dano was a prime reason for that excellent work, as he worked really well with Sukhdev Singh to shut out the most dangerous of attacks in the I-League. Dano also scored a few crucial goals and was really scary when he marauded into attack with the ball and spray ball into attack. He made some crucial tackles in every match and put his absolute 100% whenever he took the field for Punjab and proved to be an outstanding acquisition for them after they lifted the I-League trophy.
Right-Wing: Marcelinho(FC Pune City)
Marcelinho’s heroics brought many crucial points for the Stallions
After having a great debut season in the ISL for Delhi Dynamos FC, people had quite a lot of expectations from Marcelinho when he moved to FC Pune City and he repaid the faith put on him by management. Marcelinho was the creative force which drove Pune forward throughout the season and was key to their victories throughout the season. While much of FC Pune City’s defensive shape was applauded, Marcelinho was always there when it came to the attacking front.
He ended another prolific season with impressive stats, having scored eight goals and seven assists in his inaugural campaign for the Stallions. Marcelinho was always there when it came to creating opportunities for his side and influenced the whole team with his amazing work. He proved why a team like Pune should be lucky to have him, as they rode on his terrific form to qualify for the knockout rounds for the first time in their short history and end the ISL season respectfully.
Centre-Midfield: Dimas Delgado(Bengaluru FC)
Delgado was an integral part of the Bengaluru FC squad
Bengaluru FC almost had the perfect fairy-tale in their inaugural ISL season and had built a superb squad for the competition, including adding some terrific foreigners. One of the silent guardians among them was Dimas Delgado, who was an absolutely stunning player for them in the centre of the park for the Blues. Delgado started almost all games for BFC and was amazing in spraying the ball all over the park for his side with his terrific passing skills.
Delgado had an excellent passing accuracy of 77.41% and averaged at almost 66 passes per game and he had a real eye for creativity as well. Delgado scored a goal and assisted three more in the campaign for Bengaluru and created numerous more chances throughout the campaign. He made life easier for the likes of Sunil Chhetri, Miku, and even Lenny Rodrigues and played a discreet yet crucial role at the centre of midfield for them where he not only distributed the ball all over the field but kept a composed tone to Bengaluru’s matches.
Foreigners’ XI of the season
Center-Midfield: Aryn Williams(NEROCA FC)
Williams (left) was an instant hit in the I-League
NEROCA FC were the break-through team in the I-League this season and played some excellent football to finish as runners-up and the key to their stunning performance was choosing some great foreign footballers to compliment the local ones. Aryn Williams was one of those signed by them and he was absolutely sensational for them, both as a defender and a midfielder. Williams mainly played in midfield where he formed a great bond with Fabien Vorbe and was the complete package for NEROCA in midfield.
Williams showed great awareness as he was very good defensively for NEROCA and often protected and covered his defense really well. He also had the tendency of creating something special in the attack at times and even created a few opportunities as well as giving NEROCA three points when he scored the winner against Churchill Brothers. Williams proved to be one of the signings of the season in the I-League with his superb showing for NEROCA FC and proved to be a really versatile link for Gift Raikhan’s men.
Left-Wing: Chencho Gyeltshen(Minerva Punjab FC)
Minerva Punjab rebuilt almost their whole squad from scratch before the start of the I-League season and they needed an extra something to go all the way, which they got in the spectacular Chencho Gyeltshen. The Bhutanese Ronaldo proved why he’s called so with an outstanding debut season for the Warriors where he gave absolute nightmares to each and every team he faced throughout the season.
Chencho is young, mature and now being scouted by several clubs from South East Asia
Chencho was extremely prolific for Minerva right from the get-go, scoring 7 goals and assisting many more in a season where Minerva rode his brilliance to win many matches. Chencho’s terrific pace and ability to go past players along with his stunning finishing was what made Minerva put a lot of faith in him to lead their line at many times. Chencho was the creative force for his side and linked with another new signing in William Opoku amazingly to break down defenses and it was his brilliance which helped Minerva win the I-League title in their second season.
Striker: Aser Dipanda Dicka(Mohun Bagan)
Dicka was the highest scorer in the I-League
Aser Dipanda Dicka was signed by Mohun Bagan after having a great season for Shillong Lajong last year where he ended the season as the top-scorer of the I-League. Dicka proved to be a valuable asset in the striking force for the Mariners, leading the line for them in almost every game of the season. Dicka’s unpredictability in the attack which included his creative movement and compelling finishing ability made him a threat to any team and Dicka reaped a lot of goals for his hard-work.
While Dicka did not really get that much support for quite a bit in Mohun Bagan’s topsy-turvy season, he remained confident of his abilities and won over the Bagan fans with his excellent brace against East Bengal. That kick-started a chain of goals for Dicka, who ended the season with 13 goals for the Mariners and the top-scorer of the I-League twice in a row. He’s as clinical as they come and the big striker helped do his best to fill the void left by Sony Norde.
Striker: Ferran Corominas(FC Goa)
FC Goa continued their attractive attacking style of football in the ISL this season and actually benefitted from possibly the best foreign group of players in the likes of Manuel Lanzarote, Edu Bedia and of course the impeccable Ferran Corominas who was a level ahead of the rest. Coro was as lethal as they come for the Gaurs in the attacking department and absolutely bewildered everyone with his goal-scoring skills in the ISL.
Corominas scored 18 goals in 20 appearances for the Gaurs
Corominas scored against almost every opponent in the ISL and even scored hattricks in consecutive games when he was at the top of his form. He led the line for the Gaurs in an amazing manner and his terrific positioning and awareness helped him get 18 goals in the 20 matches he played for the Gaurs, which meant he had an outstanding 0.9 goals per game ratio. Coro also provided five assists in the campaign, but the lethality in his finishing was the thing which won many a point for the Gaurs and made Coro arguably the best foreign striker in the country.