Cream of Hero ISL 2016’s midfield crop
Hero Indian Super League 2016 witnessed plenty of inspirational performances coming from the centre of the park. A link between the backline and the attack, several midfielders shined for their side with their vision on the ball and their ability to keep the game flowing smoothly. Here indiansuperleague.com assesses the displays of the top five all-action midfielders from this past season.
Florent Malouda (Delhi Dynamos FC)
No player from Delhi Dynamos FC completed more passes (606) than the former Chelsea man. His stunning range with the ball at his feet was evident for all to see as he switched play effortlessly with pinpoint accuracy. Rightfully adjudged Hero of the League for his eye-catching showing, Malouda managed three goals and five assists en-route to becoming the top assists provider in Hero ISL history. His best display of the season came in the Lions’ 4-1 victory over Chennaiyin FC in which he scored twice besides providing two assists.
Javi Lara (Atlético de Kolkata)
Second only to Golden Boot winner Marcelinho (8.55) in ISL’s player ratings with 8.15, Javi Lara was instrumental to ATK’s second Hero ISL triumph with crucial goals at critical junctures of the season. He scored the winner in Kolkata’s first victory of the season against Kerala Blasters FC and scored two more worldies over the course of the season. The 31-year-old was also a huge threat from set-pieces and was second only to skipper Borja Fernandez in terms of passes completed (542) for ATK.
Krisztian Vadocz (Mumbai City FC)
The Hungarian was at the heart of Mumbai’s midfield as he used his experience and guile on the ball to help his team to a maiden semis appearance as well as the summit of the table at the completion of the league phase. He completed the most number of passes for Mumbai (506) and made 36 tackles, 30 interceptions besides also winning 17 aerial duels. The 31-year-old scored thrice for Alexandre Guimaraes’ men, including a brace in Mumbai’s 3-3 thriller against Delhi.
Romaric (NorthEast United FC)
The Ivory Coast midfielder proved to be crucial to the fortunes of NorthEast United FC as the Highlanders struggled to cope with the injury-forced absence of the 33-year-old in a couple of important matches and subsequently missed the semis with a fifth-placed finish for the second year running. Romaric was a towering presence at the centre of midfield and tended to dictate play with nonchalance. The Ivorian loved to run with the ball and completed 406 passes – second only to Rowllin Borges’ 532. He provided one assist and scored twice for the Highlanders, including a stunning free-kick in the 81st minute to hand his side a 1-0 win over FC Pune City.
Jonatan Lucca (FC Pune City)
The only individual to play in every game of Pune City’s campaign, Lucca turned out to be Antonio Habas’ brightest spark as the orange army dithered to a sixth-placed finish. Pune’s Brazilian talisman showed invention in the final third and ended the season as the joint-highest assists maker (5) along with Malouda. A danger from set-pieces, he completed 481 passes for the Punekars, making him only second to their marquee man Mohamed Sissoko (596) in terms of ball distribution.