Highlanders announce international signings,bolster squad with South American flair
NorthEast United FC (NEUFC) have announced their foreign contingent for the upcoming Hero Indian Super League (ISL) season with a total of eight international players on their roster. The Highlanders have also heavily favoured South American talent as five of those eight players are from the continent. And although head coach Joao Carlos Pires De Deus is a Portuguese national, he opted to hand-pick only one native player for his ISL squad.
Brazilian attacking midfielder Marcio de Souza Gregorio Junior, better known as Marcinho, has had the experience of playing across eight clubs in his native country, as well as stints in South Korea, Bulgaria, Russia, and Turkey. The 31-year-old has a knack of finding the back of the net and is just the kind of playmaker that NorthEast need, not only to build up attacks, but also to finish them.
Another Brazilian, Wellington Carlos da Silva, will be their go-to man up front. He has most successfully played for Romanian outfit Concordia Chiajna, for whom he has made more than half a century of appearances. At 29, the striker will add the much-needed firepower to NEUFC’s attacks.
The Highlanders’ defence will be marshalled by Uruguayan centre-back Martin Damian Diaz Perez. The 29-year-old was also the Under-17 captain for his country at the 2005 FIFA U-17 World Championship and NorthEast will hope that he would help provide a solid backline going into the tournament.
Adilson Carlos Tavares Filho, or simply Adilson Goiano, is the third Brazilian in the squad. The midfielder has played mostly across his homeland while also having plied his trade for Portuguese outfit F.C. Arouca. Still only 29, he too isn’t shy to try and find the back of the net and will further bolster the NorthEast midfield.
The John Abraham-owned ISL team have also signed up Colombian forward Luis Alfonso Paez who has appeared in over 150 matches in the First Division, most notably for clubs like Nacional Sante Fe and Rionegro Aguilas. In the last season, he bagged 21 goals in 36 matches and it is this goal-scoring prowess that could be pivotal in his newest assignment.
Apart from these five, NEUFC have also acquired the services of Portuguese defender Jose Goncalves, a central defender who can double up as a left-back. The 6’2” defender has represented his country’s Under-21 side at the 2007 UEFA Europa Championship. The 31-year-old has also featured in Major League Soccer (MLS) with New England Revolution as well as Scottish team Heart of Midlothian. Goncalves impressed one and all during the 2013 MLS season, starting in all 34 games and leading Revolution to the playoffs for the first time in half a decade. His efforts earned him the 2013 Defender of the Year award. Although his career has been hampered by a few injuries, he is a rock-solid presence at the back whom his team will rely heavily on.
Goncalves will have a familiar face with him at the back as former Revs teammate Mamadu Samba Cande, better known as Sambinha, will also turn out for the Highlanders this season. The Guinea-Bissauan player has mostly represented Sporting Club de Portugal B, amassing 72 appearances for them. A useful addition to the NorthEast squad, and at only 24, “Samba” will look to play his part to a tee in the ISL.
The final foreigner on the Highlanders’ list is Cape Verde national Odair Fortes who has made over 200 appearances for French club Reims. The 30-year-old has been nicknamed ‘TGV’, which is short for “Train à Grande Vitesse”, the high speed intercity train service in France. While that is a clear indication of his pace, the striker will also be expected to add some goals in NorthEast’s campaign for the upcoming season.
All in all, NorthEast United FC have got themselves a very balanced squad with reliable back-ups as well for each position. The team may not have previously made it to the knock-out phases, but with a line-up as strong as the current one, they are sure to land a serious title challenge.