There have been many players who could not stand upto expectations in the league.
The Indian Super League has seen some exceptional players, domestic and foreign, entertain the crowds over the years. However, there are also scores of players who were flops in the ISL. These players either could not fulfill their potential, could not settle in the league or simply failed to live up to expectations.
Looking back at the seven editions of the ISL, there have been a lot of players from all teams that were flops. However, the 10 players below are the pick of the lot. These players came to the competition with big potential and/or expectations, but faded away without making a mark.
10. Alessandro Del Piero
Alessandro Del Piero joined the ISL in August 2014 for now-defunct Delhi Dynamos. The legendary Italian forward and FIFA World Cup winner stepped into the Indian football sphere with huge expectations. He featured in 10 games for the Dynamos and delivered a goal and an assist in an underwhelming display, before retiring at the end of the season.
9. Nicky Shorey
Nicky Shorey came to the ISL with Premier League experience under his belt. The defender had featured for teams like Portsmouth, Reading, Aston Villa and so on before joining FC Pune City, a club which has ceased operations now.
Shorey played in 14 games for the outfit and contributed with three assists. The left-back, however, could not guide them to the playoffs and eventually left for Colchester United in January 2016.
8. Robert Pires
Robert Pires came to the ISL as a marquee player for FC Goa in the inaugural season. The expectations were quite high due to the pedigree he brought with him. The Frenchman was a FIFA World Cup winner and a two-time Premier League winner with Arsenal.
However, Pires simply failed to make an impact in his only season with the Gaurs. He played only eight games and scored once during that time. At the end of that campaign, he hung his boots.
7. Freddie Ljungberg
Freddie Ljungberg played in the inauagural season of the ISL after coming out of retirement. The former Arsenal player, part of the ‘invincibles’, signed for Mumbai City FC as a marquee player.
However, Ljungberg’s stint with MCFC ended after four appearances in a disappointing manner, a complete contrast to the grand welcome he received. He ended the contract early due to persistent fitness issues and back injuries. A completely forgettable experience for all parties involved.
6. Dimitar Berbatov
Dimitar Berbatov joined Kerala Blasters back in 2017. The expectations were expectedly high from the Bulgarian legend as he stepped into the colours of the team from the South. But it was the friction between the forward and then-head coach David James that made more headlines during his time in India. More importantly, the former Manchester United forward was underwhelming on the footballing front, scoring only once in nine appearances.
5. Roberto Carlos
Roberto Carlos joined Delhi Dynamos in July 2015 as a player-coach. The legendary Brazilian player featured only thrice as a player and spent the rest of his season in his role as the coach.
Under him, the Dynamos did qualify for the playoffs that year but could not go all the way to lift the trophy. Speaking of the Real Madrid legend, he went back into retirement post the season and later got a role at the Spanish giants’ marketing management team where he is currently working.
4. Eli Babalj
ATK signed Eli Babalj after Emiliano Alfaro suffered an injury back in 2018. The Australian forward played only three games for the Kolkata-based outfit, clocking 45 minutes overall.
The former AZ Alkmaar and Brisbane Roar player barely had an impact and left the ISL without featuring again for the club. His was one of the most forgettable spells by a foreign player in the league
3. Jakub Sylvestr
Chennaiyin FC signed Jakub Sylvestr from Hapoel Haifa. The Slovakian forward played 19 games for the Marina Machans and notched two goals and three assists. Interestingly, he kept getting selected in the starting lineup despite delivering underwhelming performances on a consistent basis. The 32-year-old has now signed for Zalgiris Vilnius, a club that play in Lithuania’s first division.
2. Michael Chopra
Michael Chopra signed for Kerala Blasters FC ahead of the inaugural season. The former Cardiff City player was a product of the Newcastle United academy and most notably was half-Indian. However, he failed to impress, as in his first season with KBFC, Chopra played nine times and did not find the back of the net even once. He underestimated the intensity of the league by his own admission.
He signed for the Yellow Army again in 2016 for a second spell with the club. Unfortunately, the second stint was not much of an improvement either. The striker played 10 games and managed to score only once during that time. He retired from professional football soon after that season ended.
1. Kristian Opseth
Kristian Opseth came to the Indian Super League as Bengaluru FC’s replacement for Manuel Onwu. The Norwegian signed for the Blues ahead of the 2020-21 campaign, looking to help the side clinch at least a play-offs spot.
However, Opseth’s debut season was a total disaster and perhaps the biggest flop story yet. The forward played 15 matches and did not score a goal, making only one assist for the club. The 31-year-old has now signed for Sarpsborg in the Norwegian first-division.