Best new foreign recruits who lit up the Hero ISL 2018-19
Every year, new talents from across the globe find their way to the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) expecting to make immediate inroads in a very demanding competition. The feat, however, is easier said than done considering the difficulty most foreign recruits face in adjusting to a very new country, climate, culture and style of play. A lot of newcomers, despite their apparent talent, find it difficult to get going in what is a relentless and intense league with a very thin margin for error.
Having said that, every season, an elite group always manages to stand out. Today, we list five new foreign recruits who hit the ground running and graced the Hero ISL 2018-19 with their presence.
1. Federico Gallego – NorthEast United FC
The Uruguayan’s unfortunate injury in the semi-final against Bengaluru FC was a tragic end to what was a terrific personal campaign for Gallego. The creative maestro contributed with four goals and five assists and played a vital role to help NorthEast make it to the semis for the first time in the club's history. His on-field chemistry with fellow new-entry, Bartholomew Ogbeche, was often scintillating to watch. The 28-year-old was the lynchpin in Eelco Schattorie's setup and his willingness to help out the team defensively too was a great asset throughout.
2. Bartholomew Ogbeche – NorthEast United FC
Gallego’s partner in crime, Ogbeche, too, enjoyed a stellar introduction to the Hero ISL. The powerful Nigerian bullied and harassed the opposition defences at will, scoring 12 goals and assisting in his 18 appearances. It won't be overstretching to claim that, whenever Ogbeche was on the pitch, the Highlanders' gameplan was structured around him and for good reason. Ogbeche, time and again, delivered when his team needed him the most. His importance was there for all to see in the first-leg of the semi-final, where the Highlanders struggled to find their feet after Ogbeche came off in the first half with a hamstring pull. The second season will provide a much stiffer test for the 34-year-old, but considering the evidence from the first season, it may be safe to say that he will ace it too.
3. Arnold Issoko – Mumbai City FC
The dynamic full-back-turned-winger didn’t quite have a ton of expectations riding on his shoulders when he arrived on the shores of Mumbai at the start of the season. The Congolese, however, took to the Hero ISL like fish to water and soon established himself as the most exciting wide player in the league. Blessed with speed and power, Issoko often seemed unstoppable when on full stride, brushing off challenges and providing his teammates with goal-scoring opportunities. Aided a little by Jorge Costa’s counter attack-oriented style, which required him to be the primary ball carrier, Issoko ended the season with a league-high eight assists. He also scored three goals and contributed a lot on the defensive front too.
4. Modou Sougou – Mumbai City FC
Having represented a host of top clubs around the world, Sougou knew what it was like to lead the line for a top team. After a somewhat rocky start to life in the Hero ISL, the Senegalese found his rhythm and there was no looking back. He scored 12 goals from 18 matches and had a conversion rate of 26%. He mostly played on the shoulder of last defender, keeping the opposition backline on their toes at all times. Rather than relying on the typical striker's assets like strength, pace, shooting power, etc, Sougou's game was structured around his goal-poaching instincts and the ability to make intelligent runs behind the defence.
5. Mourtada Fall – FC Goa
The 31-year-old wasn’t overly impactful at the start of the season, struggling both for match sharpness and understanding of the league. Grinding it out without losing confidence in himself, Fall’s performances took an upward trajectory in the last few months, helping the Gaurs reach the final. He contributed at the other end of the pitch too, scoring four goals, including a brace in the first leg of the semi-final against Mumbai. More of the same from the big centre-back next season and the Gaurs could very well be staring at another strong bid for the title.