Eleven youngsters who made it into Fans’ Emerging Team of the Season

With the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20 having come to an end, fans recently had the opportunity to pick their best XI comprising of Under-24 youngsters who impressed the most in the season gone by. From April 1 to April 5, Hero ISL fans visited the indiansuperleague.com website in numbers to pick their teams, whilst also sharing them on social media.

After the conclusion of the voting window, the 11 players, in accordance to the positions, who were picked the most made it into the final Fans' Emerging Team of the Season. Here's how the final team shaped up.

Goalkeeper:

Mohammad Nawaz (FC Goa)

Beating out the competition to secure his position between the sticks was FC Goa custodian Mohammad Nawaz. After breaking through last season, the 20-year-old enjoyed another productive campaign, helping the Gaurs to finish top of the table and clinch the inaugural League Winners Shield. Nawaz featured in 20 matches in the Hero ISL 2019-20, keeping five clean sheets. He also made 42 saves, 55 clearances and pulled off 86 catches over the course of the season. On the ball, Nawaz was probably the best among the goalkeepers in the league, attempting 289 passes with a stunning accuracy of 85.12%.

Defenders:

Sumit Rathi (ATK FC)

After breaking into the starting line-up around December, the youngster was a permanent fixture in Antonio Lopez Habas’ back three and earned big plaudits for his matured displays despite his tender age. The 18-year-old played 14 matches and accounted for a massive 115 clearances, 27 interceptions and had a passing accuracy of more than 70%. In the crunch final as well, Rathi stood out, completing a whopping 20 clearances. He was an integral piece behind ATK going on to win the title and was also named the ISL Emerging Player of the League for his stellar displays.

Mohamad Rakip (Kerala Blasters FC)

Having shown glimpses of his talent last season, Kerala Blasters FC's Mohamad Rakip found himself as one of the mainstays in what was otherwise an injury-ravaged Kerala backline. Despite the constant changes around him, the 19-year-old went about his job with diligence. Rakip featured in 15 matches in Hero ISL 2019-20, putting in 46 tackles, making 16 interceptions and 17 blocks, whilst affecting 55 clearances in total.

Nishu Kumar (Bengaluru FC)

The 22-year-old right back was a regular part of the Bengaluru FC back four which kept a record 11 clean sheets this season – the most by a side in a single Hero ISL season. Nishu enjoyed a fantastic season, featuring in 18 of the Blues’ 20 Hero ISL 2019-20 outings and raked up 44 tackles, 25 interceptions, 72 clearances and 24 blocks to facilitate Bengaluru’s progression till the semi-finals. He was also a nuisance in the opposition third with his forward runs and even chipped in with an important goal.

Jerry Lalrinzuala (Chennaiyin FC)

The Hero ISL 2016 Emerging Player of the Season endured a disappointing 2018-19 campaign as he made just 10 appearances in a season in which his team, Chennaiyin, finished bottom of the table. In stark contrast, the 21-year-old enjoyed a sensational Hero ISL 2019-20 under head coach Owen Coyle and helped the Marina Machans overcome a slow start to the campaign to eventually reach the final. Jerry featured in 14 matches, building up an impressive tally of 50 tackles, 20 interceptions, 49 clearances and 16 blocks. He also contributed on the offensive front, laying out two assists.

Midfielders:

Sahal Abdul Samad (Kerala Blasters FC)

Another former ISL Emerging Player of the Season in the list is Kerala’s very own Sahal Abdul Samad. After enjoying a fantastic season in Hero ISL 2018-19, which saw him win the Emerging Player award at the end of the season, Sahal wasn’t quite as effective this time around and found his gametime limited to just 792 minutes as compared to 1242 minutes of football in 2018-19. However, the enigmatic creative midfielder showed some flashes of brilliance and ended the season with two assists to his name, bettering his goal contributions tally from 2018-19, in which he scored once but had no assists to his name.

Anirudh Thapa (Chennaiyin FC)

The 22-year-old has been growing at rapid pace over the last two seasons and only accelerated his progression this term, playing a central role in Chennaiyin’s miraculous turnaround and eventual run to the final. The youngster enjoyed his most productive season in the Hero ISL till now, laying out a massive six assists and scoring an all-important goal in Chennaiyin’s semi-final first leg tie against FC Goa. Besides his offensive contributions, Thapa pulled the strings in Chennaiyin’s midfield with his immaculate passing, boasting an accuracy of almost 75%. Playing a box to box role, Thapa also contributed heavily in the defensive side of things, putting in 59 tackles, 56 clearances, 54 interceptions and 31 blocks – stats comparable to some of the top defensive midfielders in the league.

Lallianzuala Chhangte (Chennaiyin FC)

Joining Thapa and Jerry as the third Chennaiyin FC player in the list, is Lallianzuala Chhangte who, like Thapa, enjoyed his most prolific season yet in the Hero ISL. The 22-year-old was part of the Marina Machans’ ruthless attacking quartet, which also featured Golden Boot winner Nerijus Valskis, midfield maestro Rafael Crivellaro and the wily Andre Schembri. After a wasteful first half of the season, which saw the youngster squander scoring opportunities even after getting into good positions, the youngster rallied in the second half of the campaign, scoring seven goals, which made him the second-highest Indian scorer in Hero ISL 2019-20. Only Sunil Chhetri with nine managed more. Chhangte’s pace was already a nightmare to deal with for opposition defences but with the youngster slowly adding a ruthless streak in front of goal, expect a lot more to come from the speedster in the coming seasons.

Forwards:

Martin Chaves (NorthEast United FC)

The 21-year-old Uruguayan gave an impressive account of himself in his first season in India and ended the campaign with three goals and three assists and contributed directly to six of the sixteen goals the Highlanders managed for the entirety of Hero ISL 2019-20.

Farukh Choudhary (Jamshedpur FC)

Despite fading out slightly towards the end of the campaign, Jamshedpur FC’s Farukh Choudhary was one of the brightest stars in the early part of the campaign. The 23-year-old India international enjoyed his most productive season yet, scoring once and providing four assists. His direct running and partnership with Sergio Castel was a sight to behold in the early phase of the season.

Ashique Kuruniyan (Bengaluru FC)

Having made his move to Bengaluru FC this season, the 22-year-old had a decent debut campaign with the Blues. Ashique’s game time this season was divided between operating in his familiar attacking position out wide as well as taking up a very unfamiliar fullback role in multiple matches. Despite his role in the team constantly changing due to tactical reasons, Ashique adapted to his roles exceptionally well and even managed a goal and an assist in 18 matches. Due to playing in defence in multiple matches, the young forward also registered some impressive defensive stats, which included 48 tackles and 33 clearances.

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