How the marquee men of Hero ISL 2016 fared
This season of the Hero Indian Super League witnessed most of the marquee names live up to their billing either by scoring important goals or coming off the bench to change the course of the game or unleashing pivotal goal-line clearances or setting up their team-mates with eye-of-the-needle passes. Here indiansuperleague.com analyses the impact made by the marquee players on the fortunes of their respective teams.
Helder Postiga (Atlético de Kolkata)
The former Portuguese international played his part in ATK’s second title in three years. Postiga was on song for Kolkata in Hero ISL 2016 scoring twice and providing three assists. He was devastating in the air, scoring both his goals from crosses. One of his best performances of the season came away to NorthEast United FC when he came off the bench at the start of the second period to score an equaliser and act as a catalyst in a 2-1 comeback victory.
Aaron Hughes (Kerala Blasters FC)
Hughes demonstrated his class at the back for the men in yellow by going about his business with poise and elegance, very rarely putting a foot wrong. The Northern Ireland international’s intelligence and experience often saw him in the right place at the right time, whether it was to make spectacular goal-line clearances to keep his side in the game or to nod in calmly in front of 50,000 home fans at the far post. His first half substitution due to injury was a massive blow to the Blasters in the final.
Diego Forlan (Mumbai City FC)
The Uruguayan icon showed his class as he inspired Mumbai to their maiden semis appearance as well as the summit of the table at the conclusion of the league phase. He scored five goals and provided three assists for Alexandre Guimaraes’ side with his hat-trick at home against Kerala being his highlight performance. The 37-year-old showed all facets of his game in the match with three world-class finishes, including a splendid free-kick that gave the goalkeeper no chance.
Florent Malouda (Delhi Dynamos FC)
The experienced Frenchman rolled back the years as he tormented opponent defences for fun with goals and assists and helped Delhi reach the semis for the second year running. Malouda, who is Hero ISL’s all-time top assists provider, set up his teammates on five occasions this past season. He also scored thrice with his best performance coming against 2015 champions Chennayin. The former UEFA Champions League winner bagged a brace besides also providing two assists in a 4-1 win over the Super Machans. He was rightly chosen Hero of the League.
Didier Zokora (NorthEast United FC)
Ivory Coast’s most capped player brought all his experience to the fore as NorthEast missed out narrowly on the semis for the second year running. Zokora showed his class and versatility by effortlessly slotting into multiple positions across the backline and midfield. The 36-year-old’s intelligent positioning in defence saw him put in several last-ditch tackles, while also completing important interceptions. He made his presence felt in attack as well and had one assist to his credit.
Mohamed Sissoko (FC Pune City)
Sissoko came in to replace the injured Eidur Gudjohnsen as Pune City’s marquee player and became Hero ISL’s youngest ever marquee at 31 years of age. The Malian made for a towering presence in midfield and completed more passes (596) than any other player from his team. Not shy of getting stuck into the opponent either, the former Liverpool midfielder’s all-action style of play saw him complete numerous tackles and interceptions. He also netted twice for the Stallions this year.
John Arne Riise (Chennaiyin FC)
Riise had a stop-start season for Chennaiyin due to injury. However, the 36-year-old defender showed his poise with the ball at his feet when on the pitch, netting once for the Super Machans in their thriller against FC Goa, which ended 5-4 in favour of the Gaurs. The former Norwegian fullback managed 10 appearances for Chennai this season as Marco Materazzi’s men suffered from some below-par defending.
Lucio (FC Goa)
Goa finished the league stage rock-bottom as Zico’s men found themselves in unfamiliar territory and unable to make the semis. A lot can be pinned down to the unavailability of their marquee man Lucio through injury, in whose absence the Gaurs shipped 25 goals, the most by any team along with Chennaiyin. He made five appearances for Goa this year having spent the majority of his time on the sidelines due to injury.