Some of these tacticians have won the hearts of the mass with their teams’ gameplay.

Indian football is at a crucial stage in its evolution currently. New talents like Sahal Abdul Samad and Anirudh Thapa have been tasked with the responsibility of ushering India into the new era of the game in the country. However, the role of a good coach in a team’s success is not one to be overlooked.

A single individual orchestrates the way the game is played, guiding players to do things that they perhaps never saw themselves as being able to do. India, in recent years has seen a new crop of managers come into the game from all over the world, bringing with them their knowledge and experience which is proving invaluable to the youth of the country.

We at Khel Now, take you through the top five coaches in Indian football.

5. Bibiano Fernandes – (India U-16 Football Team)

The 42-year-old is currently the head coach of the Indian U-16 football team. Since taking over, Fernandes guided his sides to victory in the 2017 and 2019 SAFF U-15 Championships. Fernandes has a way with the youngsters and his philosophy of maintaining a high tempo of passing throughout the 90 minutes, led to his side scoring an incredible 28 goals in the 2019 SAFF Championship.

Watch: Bibiano Fernandes exclusive interview

Apart from his sides’ heroics in the SAFF U-15 Championships, Bibiano has also moulded the likes of Vikram Pratap Singh and Rohit Danu along with the Indian U-16 team that participated in the AFC U-16 Championship in 2018. The Indian team lost by a solitary goal against South Korea in the knockout stages, however, the gameplay by the colts gave Fernandes a special place in the heart of all Indian fans.

4. Alejandro Menendez – (Quess East Bengal FC)

A former Real Madrid Castilla youth coach, Menendez was brought to India by Quess East Bengal in an attempt to overcome their city rivals, Mohun Bagan and challenge for the I-League title. This is exactly what the Spaniard managed to do. After his appointment, East Bengal went from a side that were languishing in important phases of the league to one that pushed eventual champions Chennai City FC, to the last day of the season during the 2018-19 season.

Alejandro Menendez Jobby Justin I-League 2018-19

Indian football: Alejandro Menendez is widely regarded for his work in youth development

The 53-year-old was instrumental in youth development at the club, under whose guidance players such as Jobby Justin, Lalramchullova, Samad Ali Mallick all excelled. The Spanish tactician continue to do his good work with Mehtab Singh, Manoj Mohammad and Bidyasagar Singh and is regarded as one of the most tactically versatile coach in Indian football.

Menendez will be hoping that the new season will provide his side an opportunity to finally lift the elusive I-League title.

3. Sergio Lobera – (FC Goa)

Sergio Lobera

Sergio Lobera was once considered as the perfect man to replace Stephen Constantine in the Indian football team

The Spaniard took over the reins at Goa in 2017 and has since overseen a steady climb to the top of the Indian Super League. Lobera’s intense attacking tactics means his side is very often difficult to keep and bay, making every match a spectacle, endearing him to fans and players alike. The Spaniard was instrumental with his tactics in the Indian Super League (ISL) in the 2018-19 season, when FC Goa finished as the runners up of the league after a defeat against Bengaluru FC in the final.

Since then, Lobera has taken the Gaurs to win the Super Cup in 2019 and is being considered as one of the top tacticians working in India.

2. Akbar Nawas – (Chennai City FC)

Chennai City FC decided to let go of V. Soundarajan following a debacle during the 2017-2018 I-League season, where the side finished in the eighth position and replace him with Akbar Nawas. The Singaporean coach came into the side and brought Jordi Villa as his assistant. Together the pair set about changing the structure of the club into one that looked to local talent first.

Nawas took to visiting local leagues to look for new faces for his team. The result was a number of smart signings that catapulted a team that was languishing towards the bottom of the I-League to one that was suddenly capable of competition. His signings, astute tactics and man management saw Chennai City FC lift their very first I-League title in 2019.

1. Carles Cuadrat – (Bengaluru FC)

Indian football: Carles Cuadrat’s time with Bengaluru FC has been nothing less than a revelation

Formerly assistant to Albert Roca, Carles Cuadrat took over from his predecessor after the 57-year-old parted ways with the club in 2018.  Since then, Carles Cuadrat has led the Blues to their maiden ISL title in his first season at the helm and looks set to challenge for the title once again in the 2019-20 season.

With experience under Frank Rijkaard and Albert Roca, Cuadrat comes with a degree of managerial pedigree that he has put on show in the ISL. The 50-year-old has time and time again been hailed by his players for being someone who is easy to work with and willing to experiment. In the ISL, Bengaluru FC scored a league high 29 goals thanks for Cuadrat’s forward thinking style of play.