A number of sensational Latin American players has featured in the Indian top-flight league over the years.
The Indian Super League (ISL) is home to many talented foreign players from across the globe. The seven editions of the league have seen plenty of players from other nations come and achieve success. Similar to the top leagues in the world, ISL has seen its fair share of many impressive South American footballers, with their distinct style of play.
Most of the overseas players who arrive at the ISL usually are flair players. This means that they can lead by example and manipulate the gameplay with ease. This is the reason why South America has become a popular destination for clubs from the Indian top flight, to look for their next overseas stars. The footballers from this continent have been vital to their team’s success, to say the least.
Here are the top five South American footballers to have played in the ISL.
5. Elano Blumer
Elano Blumer arrived in the ISL for the inaugural season in 2014 and played two seasons for Chennaiyin FC. The Brazilian playmaker was clearly one of the best foreign players among the marquee signings. The former Manchester City star featured in 26 matches, scoring 12 goals and providing five assists.
Eight goals and an assist came in his first season itself, when Elano won the Golden Boot. He was able to guide the Marina Machans to the league title next year in 2015, contributing four goals and four assists in the process.
Lucio played two seasons in the ISL for FC Goa. He played the full inaugural campaign and a few matches in the second season as well. The centre-back was one of the most iconic players to arrive in India back then and it was surreal to see him take the pitch. After all, Lucio was one of the most decorated players in the world, having won the UEFA Champions League and the FIFA World Cup.
Lucio guided the Gaurs to a playoff finish in the first season, however, failed to win the league title unfortunately. He played five games during the 2015 season, however, fitness concerns cut his ISL stint early. The former Bayern Munich and Inter Milan star has now retired as a professional player.
3. Federico Gallego
Federico Gallego has been instrumental for NorthEast United since he joined the club. The Uruguayan midfielder arrived in the ISL ahead of the 2018-19 season and quickly showcased his abilities. The debut season saw him forge a great chemistry with Bartholomew Ogbeche and register four goals in addition to five assists.
The duo were pivotal to achieve the first-ever playoff appearance for the Highlanders. Gallego suffered a horrible injury in the second season, which ruled him out for the most of the campaign. However, the playmaker made a sensational comeback in the 2020-21 season. He contributed with four goals and six assists this time from 16 appearances, guiding the club to their second playoffs qualification.
Marcelinho is one of the best South American footballers of all-time in the ISL. he became an instant hit when he arrived in the country, playing for Delhi Dynamos. The Brazilian’s debut season in 2016 saw him win the Golden Boot with 10 goals. Furthermore, he has played 79 games since then, scoring 33 goals. This makes him the third all-time highest scoring foreigner in the Indian top-flight league.
Marcelinho has registered 18 assists during his time in India, putting him behind only Hugo Boumos (24) and Brandon Fernandes (18 in 64) in all-time records. The 34-year-old last featured for Odisha FC and ATK Mohun Bagan during the 2020-21 season. He is eager to continue in the ISL for his sixth season and any ISL club would be delighted to have his signature.
1. Stiven Mendoza
Stiven Mendoza’s ISL stint was short but grand in terms of overall achievement. The Colombian joined the ISL ahead of the inaugural season and spent two years here. The striker scored four goals from nine matches in the debut season. However, he set the stage on fire in his second season with the Marina Machans when he scored 13 goals and provided three assists in 16 overall games for the club.
Mendoza was a crucial cog for Chennaiyin FC to lift their first-ever ISL title in 2015, scoring the injury-time winner for his team. He was adjudged the Hero of the League and also won the Golden Boot with 13 goals to his name. His stay in India was cut short later, as Mendoza decided to move for greener pastures. He later went on to play for Ligue 1 side Amiens.