Season 3 of the ISL promised better Marquee players time on the pitch than the previous two campaigns..
To me, minutes played is the alpha stat in football. It is the single most important stat that anyone can have a look at and decide on the contribution made by a player. It means the player is fit, training well, regarded as a valuable contributing member by the coaching staff and merits a place by virtue of his standard of play.
As the Indian Super League enters its third season, a new set of marquee (now renamed designated players) have been signed. The signings seemingly are a huge progress over what has been the case in the past two seasons. Not that the players who came to India earlier were lesser names than the ones who will come this season, but because the players signed this campaign are more technical marquees than marketing marquees. The lure of the name doesn’t seem to have superseded the practicality of fitness and contribution on the pitch.
In the inaugural season of the Indian Super League 8 Marquees signed, only David James and Joan Capdevila played more than 1000 minutes of Football. Elano Blumer made the most of his 826 minutes scoring 8 goals and 1 assist turning out to be the highest goal-scorer of the tournament. Though Alessandro Del Piero and David Trezeguet featured in 10 and 9 games respectively their total game time was 580 minutes and 520 minutes only. Luis Garcia’s 2 goals + 2 assists 935 minutes contribution to title winning Atletico de Kolkata was noteworthy . David Trezeguet played his part for FCPC, clocking 520 minutes scoring 2 goals. Fredrik Ljungberg’s 170 minutes for Mumbai City were the lowest clocked by a marquee player in Season 1.
Season 2 turned out to be better for a few teams while others followed the success of player-managers Materazzi and James, deciding to assign marquee players the dual responsibility of Head Coach-Marquee player. Playing time numbers didn’t quite pan out satisfactorily though, with Roberto Carlos clocking 138 minutes and Nicolas Anelka 389 minutes, Helder Postiga’s injury meant he played 74 minutes and Carlos Marchena had a 50 minute run out. Simao turned out for NorthEast United as a super sub scoring 3 and assisting 2 in his 507 minutes. FC Goa marquee Lucio was a bright spot for the team clocking highest ever marquee minutes, touching the 1260 mark. Chennaiyin FC’s Elano couldn’t quite match-up to his Season 1 goal scoring stats but ended up with a respectable 994 minutes clocked.
Quickly taking note of the Marquee Manager/ Player loophole, the league decided to do away with the dual role and also excluded marquee players from the salary cap restriction. The result is quite refreshing and one must expect to see the best marquee player contribution on the pitch this season. Yes, there could be an injury or two given that games come thick and fast in the ISL and the season is quite intensive, yet the names attracted are players who can go the distance. They have all been involved at the top echelons of the game recently and that’s a positive signs for fans looking to see their favourite superstars on the field.
Marquee Players for season 3 of Hero ISL.
In fact, Delhi Dynamos marquee Florent Malouda clocked a team high 1382 minutes last season grabbing eight assists while John Arne Riise who switches sides to Chennaiyin FC this time had 1265 minutes under his belt. Didier Zakora who played for Pune City last season and is the marquee player for NorthEast United this term had the third highest team minutes played with 1104. Lucio comes back again to FCG with the promise to clock as many if not more minutes. Postiga will be hoping for better luck as he looks to add to his two goals last season. Also, with Diego Forlan, Aaron Hughes and Eidur Gudjohnsen all having played competitive football at the highest level going into the summer break there is reason to believe that marquee players will be doing more talking on the pitch than off it this time around.