With the exciting tournament coming to an end, Khel Now looks at the brightest talents to emerge from it…..
The 72nd Santosh Trophy recently came to an end with Kerala lifting the trophy after having an excellent tournament. In what could be an additional achievement, the southerners remained unbeaten throughout the tournament. It was the eventual winners who proved how much football in Kerala has developed for their boys to give such a dominant showcase in the tournament and some really talented players made their mark with some terrific performances all around.
While the Kerala team looked superior to everyone else, there were certain players who stood out for their sides and definitely impressed the eyes of scouts and top Indian clubs who saw their performances in the two-week period in Kolkata. Khel Now Takes a look at five such players who broke through from the 2017/18 Santosh Trophy season and awed everyone with their mesmerizing performance.
5. Rahul KP(Kerala)
Rahul KP (left) was another integral part of the Kerala side
While Rahul Kannoly Praveen, who shone for Indian Arrows and Indian U-17, his namesake Rahul KP proved that players with that name have something special in them. Many had wondered whether it was the Arrows’ Rahul who had opted to play for Kerala, but this young lad made everyone know exactly who is with some terrific performances against difficult opponents.
Rahul was always a threat for Kerala on the left-flank but mostly loved to drift into the middle and showed a very impressive eye for goal throughout the tournament, scoring three goals in the tournament and assisting a few as well. He showed the ability to dribble with the ball on the left and displayed bounds of energy to be a menace for the defenders late into the game.
Rahul’s winner against Bengal in the group stages enabled Kerala to top the group and have an “easier” route to the final. His impressive chemistry and link-up play with his team-mates urged the coach to put a lot of faith in him and Rahul’s fantastic outing in the tournament will now make him a hot topic amongst big clubs who will look to acquire his services.
4. Rajesh S (Karnataka)
Rajesh’s poaching abilities helped Karnataka to reach the semifinals
Karnataka were the dark horses in a group which saw them plying trade against the likes of Goa, Punjab, and Mizoram. However, they surprised everyone at the end by finishing on top of the group. Not only were they defensively strong, but it was because of their clinical nature in the attacking department that Karnataka grinded out many results and topped the group. Their striker, Rajesh S was one of the biggest reasons for their success because of his proficiency in front of the goal.
The bulky striker used his strength to his advantage by bullying the defenders and giving them a lot of problems, as Rajesh’ hold-up and link-up play with his team-mates were superb throughout the tournament. He was a real predator in the oppositions box and scored four goals in the tournament, including two winners against Odisha and Mizoram which helped them progress to the semi-finals! Rajesh’s terrific goal-scoring outing for his side made him probably the best #9 of the tournament, as he played a big part in Karnataka’s surprisingly successful campaign.
3. Jiten Murmu(Bengal)
Murmu was an integral part of the Bengal squad
Bengal might have just missed out on another Santosh Trophy title, but they had another prolific season in the tournament which took place in their home city of Kolkata. Many were eager to see how impressive Bengal would be and while some of their attackers showed patches of brilliance in the matches, someone who was consistently great was captain Jiten Murmu who truly led from the front for them. The Mohammedan Sporting player showed a lot of maturity in his game despite being a U-21 player and not only did he score goals but always looked for opportunities to influence his side and create them as well.
Jiten scored three goals in the tournament in which he missed a couple of matches due to injury, but he made quite the impact in which he started. Jiten’s terrific movement and close-control with the ball made him the danger-man up front at all times and he scored a crucial goal in the semi-final to put Bengal ahead. He also equalized things with an expert finish in the final against Kerala but would see his efforts go in vain. The young man shone for his side in the tournament and we might see bigger clubs pick him up after the impressive showing.
2. Lal Romawia(Mizoram)
Lal Romawia has been the standout performer for the Mizoram side
Mizoram found themselves to be in a tricky group in the Santosh Trophy but proved why they are rising as a footballing state with a terrific outing in the group stages. In a team which was filled with experienced candidates, one young midfielder in Lal Romawia shined for Mizoram with his terrific overall work which helped them progress into the semi-finals. While Lal Romawia was stated to be a right-back, he proved to be a versatile player who played as a central midfielder in many matches as well.
Romawia showed impeccable ability to play as a defender as well as a midfielder because of his impressive distribution ability and how strong his defensive skills were as well. He also showed a terrific eye for goal and scored an amazing brace in the first match itself, as well as scoring two more in the group stages to end his run with four goals, which was more than many teams strikers. Romawia’s amazing display of versatility proved how much of a promising overall player he truly is and he can get even better if a bigger club from the NorthEast picks him up next season.
1. Jithin M.S. (Kerala)
Jithin was a core reason behind Kerala’s successful campaign this year
Undoubtedly the player of the Santosh Trophy 2017/18, Jithin M.S. was a core reason for Kerala’s success because of his terrific work in scoring and creating goals for the team throughout the tournament. Not only did he contribute to his team’s attacking brilliance when they ripped apart teams as a unit in the group stages, but Jithin was also at the top of his game against more difficult opposition in the knockout rounds and made sure to give his all so that Kerala could win their first Santosh Trophy in 13 years.
Jithin was absolutely electric in the right-wing for Kerala and also showed his ability to play down the middle as a second striker, with his clever movement making it impossible for defenders to contain him. Jithin scored an amazing five goals in the tournament, including a goal in the final and ended the tournament as joint-highest scorer. He also created numerous chances for his team and had some assists to his name, with his style of play emulating that of C.K Vineeth. The Kerala University player absolutely shone through in his first “real” big test in Indian Football and is assured to be snapped up by a big club after having a fairy-tale run which ended with him and his team lifting the Santosh Trophy with pride.