Hero ISL’s evergreen midfielders and frontmen
We have already seen that not many goalkeepers and defenders have managed to feature in all six seasons of the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL). If anything, perhaps playing in all six past seasons is even more difficult for midfielders and forwards given the grueling nature of their role on the pitch, which requires them to cover most of the field and demonstrate a high work rate. Here, we have a look at the few Hero ISL midfielders and forwards who have competed in all six editions of India’s premier football division so far.
After appearing thrice each with FC Goa and NorthEast United FC in Hero ISL 2014 and Hero ISL 2015 respectively, Halicharan Narzary became an integral figure for the Highlanders in the 2016 season, which saw him make 12 appearances. The following campaign saw him feature 13 times and provide three assists for NorthEast in what was his most productive season at the time.
Narzary moved to Kerala Blasters FC ahead of the 2018-19 season but joined Chennaiyin on loan for the second half of the campaign. Back with Kerala for Hero ISL 2019-20, Narzary made an impact with the Blasters last season as he scored the winner in a 1-0 win over eventual champions ATK besides also providing two assists over the course of the campaign.
Even though his first experience in a Hero ISL final with FC Goa ended in defeat against Chennaiyin FC, Bikramjit Singh is still a two-time league champion and has been a part of all six seasons so far. After spending his first two seasons in the league with the Gaurs, the combative midfielder moved to ATK FC ahead of Hero ISL 2016 and went on to lift the title with the Kolkata-based club.
He won the title again the following campaign but this time with Chennaiyin having joined the Marina Machans before the season got underway. Bikramjit went on to make 15 appearances that campaign – the most he’s managed in a season with any club in the league – and was a major force at the heart of midfield for the southerners. He moved to Delhi Dynamos FC for Hero ISL 2018-19 and found the back of the net for them twice. Last season saw his game time limited with Odisha FC as he managed just six outings.
A versatile player who is capable of filling in up front as well as tracking back from a deeper lying midfield role when needed, Jayesh Rane has made 69 league appearances and found the back of the net four times besides also providing eight assists in that time. He spent the first three Hero ISL seasons with Chennaiyin FC and provided three assists during the Marina Machans’ title winning campaign in 2015.
The 27-year-old then moved to ATK ahead of Hero ISL 2017-18 and helped the Kolkata-based club become three-time champions following two underwhelming seasons with them. Having failed to register any goal or assist in his first season with the club, Rane scored twice and provided two assists in Hero ISL 2018-19 and also contributed a goal as well as three assists in ATK’s last title-winning season.
A Hero ISL runner-up in consecutive seasons, Lenny Rodrigues has had his fair share of up and downs ever since the inception of the league. Part of FC Pune City for the first three editions of the league, Lenny made 29 appearances for the Stallions before moving to Bengaluru FC for the 2017-18 campaign. The energetic defensive midfielder fell short with the Blues in the final that season but did get his hands on the Hero Super Cup a month later.
The following season saw him move to FC Goa and he once again came up short in the Hero ISL final but lifted the Hero Super Cup title with the Gaurs soon after. Last season saw Lenny play an integral role in the center of the park for Goa as they clinched the Hero ISL League Winners Shield. Besides boasting an impressive passing accuracy of almost 87% to go with his defensive contributions for the Gaurs, the 33-year-old also added goals to his game last campaign, netting twice.
The forward won the Hero ISL title with ATK in the inaugural season but was mostly utilized in wide areas as opposed to his preferred position up front. The next two seasons saw him ply his trade with Kerala Blasters FC and the frontman seemed to enjoy himself with the southerners, scoring four times and providing two assists in 2015.
He also netted against ATK in the 2016 final but lost the match on penalties. Rafi then joined Chennaiyin FC ahead of the 2017-18 season and played the role of an impact substitute to perfection, finding the net twice from the bench en-route to the Marina Machans’ second Hero ISL triumph. After making just four appearances for Chennaiyin the following season, he returned to Kerala last campaign.
Scorer of the 100th goal in Hero ISL’s inaugural season, Romeo Fernandes spent the first four seasons in the league with his home state club FC Goa. The pacey winger was most impressive in the first season of league, scoring thrice and providing two assists. His performance quickly earned him a brief stint with Brazilian side Atlético Paranaense.
However, Romeo rejoined Goa after his return from Brazil and was part of the Gaurs outfit that finished as runners-up to Chennaiyin in the second season. During his four seasons with Goa, he made 49 appearances for them, scored six times and provided eight assists. Hero ISL 2018-19 saw him join Delhi Dynamos FC and Romeo managed to score a solitary goal as well provide one assist for them. He spent last season with Odisha FC and found his game time restricted to just three matches.