Majority of these players have hung up their boots after their respective illustrious careers.
Since its inception in 2014, the Indian Super League (ISL) has attracted several big footballing names from all across the world. Stars like Iain Hume, David James, Marco Materazzi, Robert Pires, Alessandro Del Piero and Freddie Ljungberg among others joined the Indian top flight in its inaugural season. The second campaign saw more eminent players like Roberto Carlos, Helder Postiga, Nicolas Anelka, Lucio and Florent Malouda add to the glitz and glamour of the competition.
In the third season, the trend continued as more big names came to play in India, with the league’s fame beginning to spread far and wide. Unfortunately, a good number of these stars failed to live up to the hype and slowly faded away. To be fair, most of them were in the fag end of their respective careers and age also took a toll on them. Since most of us are idling away the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown, finding out where these players are currently in their respective lives and careers would make for some interesting reading.
Former Cote d’Ivorian international Romaric may not be as popular as most others in this list, but that does not make him any less important. The 37-year-old defensive midfielder made as many as 47 appearances for his national team between 2005 and 2013 and also won the 2009-10 Spanish Cup with Sevilla.
He played for several top clubs in Europe like Sevilla, Espanyol and Real Zaragoza, before NorthEast United signed him on a free transfer ahead of the 2016 season. He recorded two goals and an assist for them in 12 matches, before hanging up his boots at the end of the year. Overall, he has played over 480 matches for club and country and has scored 56 goals while also registering 41 assists.
It has been over three years since Romaric brought his playing career to an end. He was last reported to be back in his home country, having had no plans to return to the game in any form.
Very few people know that former Kerala Blasters goalkeeper Graham Stack is a winner of the Premier League and the FA Cup! He won both trophies with Arsenal, who are only one out of the eight English clubs he played for before arriving in India ahead of the 2016 ISL season. He was also part of the Gunners’ ‘Invincibles’ team in the 2003-04 campaign.
At Blasters, he made eight appearances but kept only one clean sheet, while also conceding 11 goals. After the Kochi-based club finished the season as runners-up, the Irishman moved to another English club Eastleigh before retiring ahead of the 2018-19 season.
The 38-year-old is currently the Head of Academy – Goalkeeping at Premier League outfit Watford, while also running two after-school football clubs and managing his own academy in Hertfordshire, England. For the past two years, he has also been doing a degree in sports writing and broadcasting at Staffordshire University.
Just like Graham Stack, Aaron Hughes also hails from Northern Ireland and signed for Kerala Blasters in 2016. Hughes also enjoyed a very successful stint in both – the Premier League as well as the national team before arriving in India.
Having played for the likes of Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Fulham and Queens Park Rangers in the Premier League, Hughes racked up a total of 455 appearances in the English top flight. He also played with Brighton & Hove Albion in the EFL Championship and Melbourne City FC in Australia’s A-League before joining the Blasters.
After playing 11 games and scoring a solitary goal for the Kerala outfit, the 40-year-old moved to Hearts FC in the Scottish Premiership. He eventually hung up his boots in 2019 – by then, he had also become Northern Ireland’s most capped international player with 112 appearances.
In a recent Instagram live chat with former Blasters teammate Ishfaq Ahmed, Aaron Hughes had revealed that he is working hard to get a UEFA coaching licence. “Right now, I am only a UEFA ‘B’ licensed coach. I am working to get my UEFA ‘A’ license, which will ideally be issued to me by the end of the year,” he had said. The former centre-back is also said to be doing a sports management course with UEFA at the moment.
Former Real Madrid star Ruben Gonzalez is yet another star who joined the ISL in Season 3. The center-back proved his abilities at Borussia Moenchengladbach, Albacete, Racing Santander, Celta Vigo, Real Mallorca, Osasuna and Real Zaragoza, before the now-defunct Delhi Dynamos snapped him up in 2016. Very few people know that he is also a Champions League and La Liga winner, both with Los Blancos.
At Delhi, Gonzalez played 13 games in the 2016 term. Afterwards, he returned to Spain to join Coruxo FC in the third-tier. Less than six months later, he called time on his playing career. Overall, he played just over 300 club games and also scored nine goals, out of which one was for the Dynamos in the ISL.
Not much is known about what he has been up to post-retirement, although he is said to be in his native country till date.
Mohamed Sissoko also had an extensive football career in Europe before his stint in the ISL. A defensive midfielder by trade, he played for Valencia, Liverpool, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, Fiorentina, Levante and Shanghai Shenhua in the Chinese Super League, before earning a spot in the now-defunct FC Pune City’s squad in 2016.
Sissoko enjoyed a moderately successful campaign with Pune, scoring twice in 13 matches. But, the Stallions chose not to retain him beyond the season and for a while, he was without a club. Later, he joined Ternana FC in Italy, before moving to Mitra Kukar (Indonesia), San Luis (Mexico), Kitchee SC (Hong Kong) and FC Sochaux (France) one after the other.
The 35-year-old could have played for the French national team due to his citizenship, but instead, he chose to represent his country of birth Mali on the international stage. He played 34 matches for them and also scored twice. He has won the FA Cup and the English Super Cup (twice) with Liverpool, the La Liga and UEFA Cup with Valencia and Ligue 1 with PSG. He also won the UEFA Super Cup twice – once each with Liverpool and Valencia.
Not many people remember the fact that former Barcelona and Chelsea legend Eidur Gudjohnsen was a former FC Pune City player. The club signed him as their marquee player in 2016, but were forced to allow him to return home after he got ruled out for the entire campaign due to an injury in pre-season.
During his best years, the ex-striker played for PSV Eindhoven, Bolton, Chelsea, Barcelona, Monaco, Tottenham Hotspur, Stoke City, Fulham, AEK Athens and Club Brugge among other clubs. He won the Premier League twice with Chelsea and the Champions League, La Liga, Spanish Cup, Spanish Super Cup and UEFA Super Cup with the Blaugrana. He was ready for a final roar with Pune, but the injury he suffered during pre-season training brought his career to a premature end.
The 41-year-old also represented Iceland in 88 matches, netting 26 times. He is currently the manager of the Iceland U-21 side, while his son Andri Gudjohnsen plays with Real Madrid’s U-18 team.
Uruguayan legend Diego Forlan was perhaps the most important name to sign up for the ISL in 2016. The legendary forward, like most others on this list, was also approaching the twilight stages of his career when Mumbai City snapped him up.
The former Manchester United, Villarreal, Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan star played 12 matches for Mumbai and did fairly well by registering five goals and three assists to his name. After the end of the season, he joined Kitchee United in Hong Kong, before hanging up his boots last year.
Forlan is one of Uruguay’s greatest-ever players, with 36 goals from 112 caps. He also won the 2010 FIFA World Cup Golden Ball award, as he led the team to the semi-finals. Currently, the 41-year-old is the manager of one of his former clubs Penarol, a team that plays in the Uruguayan Primera Division.