Defence has always been the backbone of successful teams throughout the history of football across the globe.

While goals are often seen as the highlights in a game, a robust backline is one of the most essential elements for a team to overpower the opponent. Over the years, the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) has witnessed incredible defenders who have put their bodies on the line to help their teams keep a clean sheet.

With the 2022-23 season of the Hero ISL is around the corner, let us take a close look at six defenders to keep an eye out for in the upcoming campaign.

Florentin Pogba (ATK Mohun Bagan)

Image Courtesy: ATK Mohun Bagan

Pogba’s signing has arguably been one of the most talked about signings of the season. Having played in the European top-flight league with his former club St. Etienne, the Mariners will not only be banking on his experience but will be expecting him to step up and lead the team from the back.

Having had a decent outing with his side in the pre-season, all eyes will be on him to strengthen the backline alongside Pritam Kotal, Subhasish Bose, Brendan Hamill, and Asish Rai as the Mariners will settle for nothing less that the title this season and Pogba who is blessed with a great passing range and ability to read the game will be a key figure for Juan Ferrando’s side.

Hira Mondal (Bengaluru FC)

Image Courtesy: Bengaluru FC media

Mondal'sremarkable performances during his time at East Bengal FC last season earned him a move to Bengaluru FC for the upcoming season. A versatile defender who can play both as a centre-back and full-back is known for his composure on the ball. He had a good Durand Cup campaign which will urge head coach Simon Grayson to deploy him across several other positions.

The 26-year-old punched above his weight as he registered 57 clearances, 49 tackles, 35 blocks, and 29 interceptions in a East Bengal FC side that finished at the bottom of the table with 11 points in the last season. With a lot of quality defenders around him, expect Mondal to take his game to the next level.

Vafa Hakhamaneshi (Chennaiyin FC)

Image Courtesy: Chennaiyin FC

In a newly led and coached Chennaiyin FC under Thomas Brdaric, Hakhamaneshi’s towering presence in the backline will offer considerable physical strength to the side, a trait that Brdaric highly desires from his defenders. The 31-year-old’s experience across several Middle Eastern and Asian leagues will be of vital importance for the Marina Machans as the German head coach has gone for a complete revamp in the backline.

Hakhamaneshi’s presence will help Brdaric as he attempts to address Marina Machan’s defensive woes with other additions like Fallou Diagne, Narayan Das, and Mohammad Sajid Dhot also adding strength to their defence.

Ruivah Hormipam (Kerala Blasters FC)

Hormipam showed us that age is just a number as the defender excelled in his defensive abilities when called on to action while also gaining the trust of head coach Ivan Vukomanovic during last season. Aged 21, the defender was lively and adhered to the standards deployed by Vukomanovic.

Showing immense promise in the previous season, the defender might not always directly fit into the first team, but has a great scope to learn from a handful of veterans in Harmanjyot Khabra, Marko Leskovic, Victor Mongil, and Jessel Carneiro. Proving his mettle in the grandest of stages in Indian football, Hormipam registered 67 clearances, 57 tackles, 31 interceptions, and 11 blocks across the Hero ISL 2021-22 season.

Peter Hartley (Jamshedpur FC)

Hartley’s indefatigable defensive attributes were one of the crucial reasons behind Jamshedpur FC lifting the ISL League Winners’ Shield. The defender was the heartbeat of the Jamshedpur FC defence and held the backline together for them throughout the season besides being a dangerous presence on set-pieces and corners.

The defender who is also the team’s captain is a real leader on and off the pitch. New head coach Aidy Boothroyd will count on Hartley not just for the clean sheets but also to guide younger players on the pitch.

Narender Gahlot (Odisha FC)

One of the top emerging defenders of the league, Gahlot made a name for himself playing for Jamshedpur FC last season as he helped the team win the League Winners’ Shield.

He has shifted base to Odisha FC this season and under the watchful eyes of head coach Josep Gombau is looking to go to the next level as a defender. His ability with the ball at his feet stands out along with his composure even in the most pressured situations.

Gahlot showed his quality in the Durand Cup where Odisha FC kept four clean sheets and he was one of the best defenders in the tournament.