Analysing how Hero ISL teams fared in the 2019-20 transfer window
Midnight of August 31 marked the end of the summer transfer window for the upcoming Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20 season. The past few months saw the teams busy at work, fortifying their squads with the best talents from across India and around the globe.
While who exactly got the best out of the window can only be determined once the Hero ISL action begins on October 20, here's an early insight into how the teams did on paper.
It has been an eventful window for ATK, who seem to have completely revamped the squad heading into the new season. John Johnson seems to be the only foreigner retained by ATK, with the likes of Manuel Lanzarote, Andre Bikey, Everton Santos and others leaving the club. The management has brought in some high-profile signings like Roy Krishna, David Williams, Dario Vidosic, Agustin Garcia, Javier Hernandez and defender Carl McHugh to complete their quota of foreign recruits. The side's Indian contingent has been amped up too with the addition of proven stars like Anas Edathodika, Michael Soosairaj and goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh joining in. Soosai's brother Michael Regin and striker Jobby Justin have joined from Hero I-League 2018-19 champion Chennai City and runners-up East Bengal respectively adding further depth to the squad. With Hero ISL 2014 winning coach Antonio Lopez Habas back at the helm for the Kolkata-based side, the squad looks well-stocked in every position imaginable with some sensational star power across the pitch. Sehnaj Singh’s arrival from Mumbai City FC will also be adding some steel to Habas’ midfield.
Kerala Blasters FC
Taking things a notch over rivals ATK, Kerala Blasters have refreshed their entire seven-member overseas players' list. However, in stark contrast to ATK's policy of bringing in mostly new names to the league, Kerala have concentrated heavily on recruiting top performers from last season with names like Bartholomew Ogbeche from NorthEast United FC, Sergio Cidoncha and Mario Arques from Jamshedpur FC and former Delhi Dynamos centre back Gianni Zuiverloon. There will be a few exciting new foreign players in the fray too, with Brazilian defender Jairo Rodrigues, Senegalese midfielder Mouhamadou Moustapha Gning and Cameroonian centre forward Raphael Eric Messi Bouli having been brought in. Needless to say, Kerala fans will be hoping for some new heroes to rise from amongst the trio. With Dheeraj's departure to ATK and Naveen Kumar's loan spell coming to an end, the goalkeeping duties will shift to experienced campaigner TP Rehenesh, who was roped in from NorthEast and the promising Bilal Khan, who impressed for Real Kashmir in the Hero I-League last term. While Kerala fans were left disappointed with home-town heroes Anas and CK Vineeth leaving the club, the return of Mohammed Rafi after two seasons will preserve the local flavour in the squad. Star players Sahal Abdul Samad and Sandesh Jhingan's contract extensions was also a statement of the club's vision for the future. The shrewdest piece of business for Kerala, however, may not be any player but the appointment of Eelco Schattorie as the head coach. The enigmatic Dutchman gave a glimpse of his tactical masterclass, guiding NorthEast to their first-ever semifinal last season and may just be the man the Blasters needed to guide them back to the top again.
Reigning champions Bengaluru FC have retained their Indian and Spanish core with the likes of Sunil Chhetri, Udanta Singh, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Rahul Bheke, Albert Serran, Juanan, Dimas Delgado and others set to return to help out with the Blues' title defence. Australian midfielder Erik Paartalu, too, will be back with the side after missing out on the final few matches of the campaign due to an injury. One glaring absentee from Carles Cuadrat's team sheet this season will be Miku. The Venezuelan hitman has been central to Bengaluru's success over the past two years and his departure spells a major blow for the defending champions. Xisco Hernandez, too, has moved on to join Delhi Dynamos for the upcoming season. To replace the latter, the Blues engineered a smart move to rope in former Chennaiyin FC talisman Raphael Augusto. The Brazilian has been involved in two Hero ISL title wins with his previous club and will fit right into Bengaluru's winning philosophy. The herculean task of filling in Miku's shoes will fall to new signing Manuel Onwu. The 31-year-old Spaniard comes with the experience of having played in the La Liga and is a proven goal scorer in Spanish football's second and third divisions. His ability to adapt to the new league and country will be crucial to Bengaluru's fortunes. Another interesting new entrant to the Bengaluru squad will be Ashique Kurunian. The youngster has proven himself for FC Pune City over the past two years and recently impressed in the India jersey at the AFC Asian Cup. Eugeneson Lyngdoh’s return to the club will also excite fans, who have good memories of the midfielder from his last stint with the Blues.
Last season's finalists FC Goa have channelled most of their efforts this season in retaining their stars from last season. Ferran Corominas, Hugo Boumous, Ahmed Jahouh, Carlos Pena, Brandon and Seriton Fernandes have all been secured with contract extensions. Mourtada Fall was central to the Gaurs’ run to the final last season and will be returning to don the famed orange this season. While the Gaurs haven't been particularly active bringing in players, their two major signings of the window feature attacker Seiminlen Doungel from Kerala Blasters and Aiban Dohling from Shillong Lajong. The former’s addition to Gaurs’ already formidable frontline may just prove to be masterstroke as Doungel’s playing style and the ability to press from the front perfectly complements Lobera’s philosophy.
Mumbai City FC
Having kept their faith in head coach Jorge Costa for the upcoming season, the Islanders have been busy in the transfer window. The focus seems to have been on bolstering the midfield. Milan and Sehnaj Singh have departed from the club but captain Paulo Machado has been handed an extension and will be the one pulling the strings from the middle of the park alongside new signing Rowllin Borges, who was signed from NorthEast after a very productive Hero ISL 2018-19 for the Highlanders. With Arnold Issoko having left, Mumbai City have managed to rope in a like-for-like replacement in Gabon national Serge Kevyn to fill the void. Former FC Pune City attacker Diego Carlos' pace and direct style will also help out Mumbai's counter attacking style while Tunisian centre forward Amine Chermtiti will be the big new signing Mumbai fans will be pinning their hopes on this season. At the back, Lucian Goian and Joyner Lourenco have left for pastures anew but the management has been able to rope in former NorthEast centre back Mato Grgic and FC Pune City sideback Sarthak Golui to replace the duo. Modou Sougou, who top scored for the side last season, has also been retained and will be tasked with spearheading their attack alongside Chermtiti.
Jamshedpur FC have had a change at the helm with Spanish head coach Antonio Iriondo replacing his countryman Cesar Ferrando. With Tim Cahill having retired and Cidoncha and Arques leaving to join the Blasters, the Jharkhand-based club has already brought in a host of Spanish players to add to the two foreigners - Tiri and Brazilian Memo- who they have retained for the upcoming season. The likes of Piti, Noe Acosta, Sergio Castel and Aitor Monroy all come with a bagful of experience and can add a lot of creativity to the side going forward. Jerry and Soosairaj's departure, however, may weaken their wide areas a bit and Iriondo will hope Isaac Vanmalsawma, who arrived from Chennaiyin, can come good and help out in the wings. Joyner Lourenco's addition is set to add some extra stability to Jamshedpur's backline. Two players who might turn out to be integral to Jamshedpur's fortunes next season will, however, be youngsters Amarjit Singh and Narender Gahlot. The two young guns have proved their worth for the Blue Tigers lately and will be expected to shine in their first foray in the Hero ISL. CK Vineeth’s addition to the front line will also bring in some valuable experience to the squad.
NorthEast United FC
The Highlanders lost a host of important personnel this season in the shape of Ogbeche, Borges, Grgic. However, one key player the Highlanders have been able to keep hold of is Federico Gallego. New head coach Robert Jarni, who came in for Schattorie, will undoubtedly look to build his squad around the Uruguayan dynamo, who proved to be sensational last season. Like always, the Highlanders will be putting their faith on home-brewed talents and youngsters, with players like Redeem Tlang and Lalthathanga Khawlhring tipped to play starring roles in the coming season. The Highlanders' incomings, too, are in the club's policy to promote local talents with the likes of Ninthoinganba Meetei, Rakesh Pradhan, Nim Dorjee Tamang and Lalengmawia being roped in to help out the team for the upcoming season. Experienced defender Wayne Vaz, former Mumbai City enforcer Milan Singh and custodian Subhasish Roy will also turn up in the Highlanders' colours in Hero ISL 2019-20 adding some much-needed experience to the young squad. Argentine striker Maximiliano Barreiro has been the big overseas signing so far and with the uphill task of filling in Ogbeche's shoes at the tip of NorthEast's attack, fans will be rooting for the 34-year-old to hit the ground running. A contract extension for last season’s midfield mainstay Jose Leudo and the recruitment of promising Uruguayan youngster Mario Chaves represented a strong conclusion to the Highlanders’ transfer window for the 2019-20 campaign.
Despite enduring a terrible Hero ISL 2018-19 season, Chennaiyin have kept their faith on head coach John Gregory to lead the team in the coming season. The two-time champions will take the field in 2019-20 season with a new-look squad. Skipper Mailson Alves, midfielder Gregory Nelson and the talismanic Raphael Augusto have left the team, making way for a fresh roster of foreign recruits to take their place. In defence, Eli Sabia, who was given a contract extension, will be joined by former Mumbai City FC mainstay Lucian Goian and Afghanistan international Masih Saighani. In the trio, Chennaiyin will have a physical defensive line to call upon. The versatile Edwin Vanspaul, who starred during Chennai City's triumph in the Hero I-League 2018-10, has also been signed up and will provide Gregory with an option he can use both in defence and the midfield. Lithuanian striker Nerijus Valskis is a potent goal poacher who can prove to be a lethal partner to Jeje Lalpekhlua up front. Maltese veteran Andre Schembri and Romanian winger Dragos Firtulescu will be in charge of providing the creative impetus to the team going forward. A late swoop for Lallianzuala Chhangte and goalkeeper Vishal Kaith completed a very productive transfer window for the two-time champions. The ever-reliable Karanjit Singh, who has been with the club since 2015, was also handed a one-year extension and the role of the team’s goalkeeping coach for the upcoming season.
Delhi Dynamos FC
Delhi Dynamos FC started off the transfer window with a swoop for Jamshedpur FC speedster Jerry Mawhmingthanga and followed it up with a coup for former Bengaluru winger and Hero ISL 2018-19 winner Xisco Hernandez. A lightweight midfield haunted head coach Josep Gombau in the early stages last season, prompting the Spaniard to tweak his system in the latter half to get the desired results. The area has been a major point of focus for the side's rebuild this transfer window, with a host of premier midfielders like former Barcelona B player Diawandou Diagne and Argentine playmaker Martin Perez Guedes being roped in. Last season's captain Marcos Tebar has also been handed an extension and will most likely form one half of the double pivot alongside the combative Diagne. Up front, the team has pulled off a smart move to sign Spanish striker Aridane Santana on loan from Spanish outfit Cultural Leonesa to add a typical no. 9 in their roster. Former Chennai City FC defensive mainstay Gaurav Bora and Spanish centre back Carlos Javier Delgado have been the additions intended to bolster their backline. With Gianni Zuiverloon's towering presence set to be missing in the upcoming season, the duo will need to shoulder much of the responsibility alongside Delhi's existing defensive roster. Young goalkeeper Minerva Punjab Arshdeep Singh has also been brought in to deputize for the ever-reliable Francisco Dorronsoro.
Note: Teams will still be able to sign free agents post the 31st August transfer window deadline.
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