Foreign talents who stood out in their Hero ISL debut season
Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2020-21 was the most competitive season yet with 11 teams boasting top talents that made for hard-fought and exciting contests all through. There were plenty of domestic talents that excelled in their first-ever Hero ISL campaign and so did some foreigners in their first season in India. Adjusting and acclimatising to new conditions is not easy and here we take a closer look at some of the best international performers from the season that ended last week with Mumbai City FC beating ATK Mohun Bagan in the final.
Igor Angulo hit the ground running during Hero ISL 2020-21 and bagged the Golden Boot award after bagging 14 goals. Angulo won the Golden Boot owing to his lower minutes per goal scored (117.50) when compared to that of Roy Krishna and did a good job in filling Ferran Corominas’ boots for the Gaurs. A clinical finisher who loves to play on the shoulder of defenders, the Spaniard netted three braces over the course of his first Hero ISL campaign.
The brightest spark in an otherwise underwhelming season, even Diego Mauricio’s presence in the team couldn’t prevent Odisha FC from finishing at the bottom of the standings. The Brazilian was the Bhubaneswar-based club’s top-scorer with 12 goals and was responsible for half the goals scored by his team -- almost. A confident dribbler with loads of pace, Mauricio could make an impact off the bench and tested the goalkeeper from freekicks or shots from range and often he succeeded in putting the ball into the net.
Another player who enjoyed a good individual Hero ISL bow despite his team not faring well was Bengaluru FC’s Cleiton Silva. Playing his first season for the Blues, Cleiton looked as though he had been a part of the Bengaluru FC set-up for years. He consistently found the back of the net for them with only Sunil Chhetri (8) scoring more goals than Cleiton (7). He could also set up his teammates to score and had more assists (4) than any other Bengaluru FC player.
Jordan Murray will have fond memories of his first-ever Hero ISL campaign even though Kerala Blasters FC had a season to forget. The Blasters had high expectations ahead of the season but failed to live up to the hype due to a variety of factors. One Kerala Blasters FC player who always gave it his best, causing trouble to opposition defences whenever on the pitch was Murray. He scored some crucial goals in winning causes for the southerners and ended the season as their top-scorer with seven goals besides also providing an assist.
Adam le Fondre
Adam le Fondre joined Mumbai City FC with a lot of expectation to perform and the Englishman delivered as he ended the season as the Islanders’ top goal-getter (11). The Englishman showed his versatility over the course of the campaign, playing in wide areas as head coach Sergio Lobera looked to accommodate other players and experiment with his formation. Le Fondre’s ability to seamlessly slot into other roles meant that he had an impact wherever he was positioned as his one assist and the innumerable chances he created go to show.
Alberto Noguera was perhaps the most creative player in Hero ISL 2020-21 as he topped the leaderboard for assists in his debut campaign in India. The Spaniard was FC Goa’s primary playmaker, creating a host of chances for the Gaurs and finishing with eight assists – joint-highest for the league this season. Though he took fewer minutes per assist than Roy Krishna. He also scored once for FC Goa and was a threat whenever on the ball, especially in the final third thanks to his ability to unlock defences with an eye-of-the-needle pass.
Matti Steinmann was another talented midfielder who shone in his debut Hero ISL season despite those around him not enjoying the best of times. As SC East Bengal struggled to adjust during their Hero ISL bow, Steinmann took to the action like a duck to water. Adept at both ends of the pitch, he was a colossal presence in midfield for the Kolkata club and was their top-scorer with four goals as well as their joint-top assist-maker with three assists.
Like Angulo, Jorge Ortiz made a big impact for FC Goa in his debut season with the Gaurs. A threat whenever on the ball, Ortiz’s close control, quick change of pace and ability to beat players with a drop of a shoulder made him a handful for defenders to deal with. The Spaniard found himself heavily involved in the thick of the action for the Gaurs and was a creative influence that contributed six goals as well as an assist in Hero ISL 2020-21.
While most of this list is made up of attack-minded players, it’s worth mentioning that defenders left their mark in their debut Hero ISL campaign as well. There’s no better example in this regard than the performances of Jamshedpur FC’s Stephen Eze, who was a towering presence at the back and could be a nuisance in the opposition box now and then. He completed 35 blocks, 60 interceptions and 118 clearances for his team besides scoring for them four times.