These players are sure to leave a mark if they maintain their bright form.
The new ‘four foreigners’ rule implemented in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2021-22 season has seen a remarkable improvement among the domestic talents. More game time for Indian footballers has resulted in many top youngsters coming to the fore and putting in impressive performances. A few of these players really stood out as they continue to thrive in the current setup. Players like Jeakson Singh and Sahal Abdul Samad reignited their form while newbies like Liston Colaco have excelled.
How many of these players can stay in the limelight, as we welcome the new year? Here are Khel Now’s top 10 picks.
10. Vinit Rai (Odisha FC)
The 24-year-old central midfielder has had an impressive campaign so far. Though Odisha FC have not exactly rallied under his captaincy, he has exhibited maturity in his role.
Playing as a deep-lying playmaker, Vinit has completed 84% of his passes so far in ISL 2021-22. He also drops back considerably and has often run his socks off to get in last-ditch tackles. The young captain can excel in the new year if he keeps up the good work and adds some end product to his numbers.
9. Muhammed Nemil (FC Goa)
Nemil was nominated as the best midfielder in the Super Division of the Mumbai District Association Football (MDFA) League, only a couple of years ago. The 19-year-old attacking midfielder was also hailed as one of the brightest prospects ever, coming from the Reliance Foundation Young Champs (RFYC) Academy.
He scored four goals and registered two assists during FC Goa’s Durand Cup-winning campaign in 2021. His close-control, intelligent progressive play, and finesse in shooting are things to look out for. The fact that he drew the attention of Spanish clubs Rayo Vallecano and Sabadell FC during a training stint in Spain, is enough to justify how pivotal he can be for the Gaurs in 2022.
8. Jeakson Singh (Kerala Blasters)
Jeakson has been another breakthrough player among the youngsters at Kerala Blasters. Though he has registered only one assist this season, its execution was top-notch. The defensive midfielder found himself in a favourable area against Mumbai City FC, following which, he sent in a cross to set up Alvaro Vazquez. Apart from this, he has been a crucial element in Vukomanovic’s energetic midfield throughout ISL 2021-22 so far.
Sitting as the deepest pivot of an otherwise attack-oriented midfield, he boasts an outstanding 83% pass completion rate. Consequently, one can easily bank on him to become a mainstay and perform even better this year.
7. Chinglensana Singh (Hyderabad FC)
The former FC Goa centre-back has been one of the driving forces for second-placed Hyderabad FC in the ISL so far this season. He has already managed to get a goal and a clean sheet across eight appearances, bettering his own record from the previous campaign. Manolo Marquez’s faith in the Indian defender has seen him go from strength to strength with 28 clearances and 17 tackles.
Chinglensana also has an impressive 79% pass completion rate, suggesting that he is comfortable with the ball at his feet. If he maintains this growth curve, he could easily be a player to look out for in 2022.
6. Anirudh Thapa (Chennaiyin FC)
Thapa has been touted as one of the brightest Indian prospects and rightly so. The versatile midfielder has been fielded in all positions across the center of the pitch so far. Though his primary area of expertise remains his energetic running and exquisite dribbling, he can do much more. He has fulfilled a role similar to Conor Gallagher’s at Crystal Palace at Chennaiyin FC, as he drops into spaces to create chances but makes interceptions as well. One could expect him to prove his mettle and ramp up his goals and assists tally in 2022.
5. Mohammad Nawaz (Mumbai City FC)
Des Buckingham’s youth-centric squad rotation has seen Mohammad Nawaz become Mumbai’s first-choice goalkeeper. The 21-year-old shot-stopper has already kept two clean sheets this season and is currently at third place in the ‘Golden Glove’ race. He has a flair for the extraordinary as his photogenic saves have earned him a 58.06% save percentage in ISL 2021-22 with only 1.63 goals conceded per game.
With the presence of Mourtada Fall and Rahul Bheke in front, he can only get better this year.
4. Vikram Partap Singh (Mumbai City FC)
Indian Arrows graduate Vikram Singh has been another important player for Mumbai City. Though he has mostly been a rotational player, his impact from the bench has proved to be good competition for Raynier Fernandes.
He scored twice in Mumbai City’s 5-1 rout of ATK Mohun Bagan and demonstrated that he can improve immensely. With experts like Igor Angulo, Cassinho, and Raynier as mentors, 2022 might prove to be a milestone year for him.
3. Sahal Abdul Samad (Kerala Blasters)
Sahal has not been the most consistent performer but this season has seen him remind critics of his true potential. Playing as a wide midfielder on the left-hand side has seen him get more goals. His strikes against ATK Mohun Bagan and Mumbai City FC in the ISL this season were a testimony to how good he is at finishing half-chances.
The Kannur-born player is also not a shy dribbler as his 251 touches so far speak for themselves. Consistency, however, will be key to the talented midfielder’s form and he must keep up the intensity in 2022.
2. Liston Colaco (ATK Mohun Bagan)
Colaco has been a revelation at ATK Mohun Bagan despite his team’s underwhelming performance at times. He scored his fifth goal of the season against FC Goa and has already justified his big, ₹1 Crore transfer fee. The winger has demonstrated his rapid feet in attack with a variety of goals – whether it is his curler against Kerala Blasters or his composed finish against East Bengal, he has shown that he can do it all.
1. Apuia (Mumbai City FC)
Lalengmawia Ralte (Apuia) has cemented his place in the Mumbai City starting XI beside Ahmed Jahouh this season. Averaging 49.38 passes per game, with an 84.55% pass completion rate, he has benefitted immensely from Mumbai’s possession-based football. Buckingham has repeatedly relied on him in the ISL, thereby helping him bloom into a resilient yet impactful player. He has also helped out his defense with 40 tackles and been active all over the pitch with 510 touches so far.
His exciting partnership with Jahouh is sure to make him a joy to watch in the new year.