NorthEast United FC would have ended the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 campaign with a bittersweet feeling having narrowly missed out on the playoffs but having also shown significant improvement from the last two seasons where they struggled to compete. 

Under the leadership of Juan Pedro Benali, the Highlanders found a head coach who was able to knit a team out of the talented individuals at their disposal. 

NorthEast United FC were competitive from the very first match and were awkward opponents for every team in the ISL. 

A well-organised unit, the Highlanders married the exuberance of its talented youth with the experience of its foreign players who almost succeeded in taking the team to the playoffs. Benali also instilled a fighting spirit in the team that allowed them to play fearless football which yielded success even against the toughest of opponents. 

A seventh-place finish can’t be classified as a success but considering the position the team found itself at the end of last season, the positives outweigh the negatives. 


Pl: 22; W: 6; L: 8; D: 8; Pts: 26; GF: 30; GA: 34

The Highlanders missed out on the playoffs by just one point which was a big improvement over the 2022-23 campaign that saw them pick up just five points in total. Their tally in the 2023-24 season was their third-highest ever in the ISL and 12 points more than the 2021-22 season. 

The Highlanders got their foreign signings spot on with all the overseas stars making an impact. Mohammed Ali Bemmamer, Nestor Albiach, Michael Zabago and Tomi Juric made a big impact on the team. 

Even the Indian players like Parthib Gogoi, Jithin MS, Phalguni Singh, andSoraisham Dinesh Singh contributed heavily to the team’s success. 

Their home form which has always been a key factor in their more successful seasons showed improvement as they picked up 18 out of their 26 points at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium. The only defeats at the venue came against the league’s top two – Mohun Bagan Super Giant and Mumbai City FC and Punjab FC. 

An injury to Juric was a big blow to the Guwahati-based side as they missed his services in the run-in. His presence could have pushed Benali’s side across the line. 


There were many positives in the Highlanders’ season despite them not making the top six but the biggest one is head coach Benali. He instilled a belief in the team that they could compete and fight for the playoff spots in the league. The confidence in the team was visible in many performances this season.

The Spaniard also groomed several youngsters that could became the backbone of the team for years to come. His man management skills coupled with his tactical knowledge were a big boost for the youngsters who delivered great performances from time to time. 

The Highlanders’ biggest result came away to FC Goa when they triumphed 2-0 at the Fatorda. Head coach Manolo Marquez termed Benali as one of the best coaches in ISL. 


NorthEast United FC scored 30 goals which was the sixth-best tally in the league this season but it was down to the brilliance of their attackers. The Highlanders were often devoid of ideas in front of goal and their lack of cutting edge is what cost them a place in the playoffs. 

The Highlanders created the fewest chances in the league, at least 26 fewer than any team that qualified for the playoffs. FC Goa who were top of the list created almost double the chances NorthEast United FC created. 

Best Player

Mohammed Ali Bemammer

The Moroccan midfielder was one the best in the league in his positions and pulled the strings for NorthEast United FC. Sitting just ahead of the defence, Bemammer played the duel role of shielding the defence and also linking it with the attack. 

He made the most number of interceptions (34) in the league which was the fourth-best tally in the league. His successful tackle count of 32 was the best in the NorthEast United FC team and seventh-best in the league. The Moroccan was also the best passer in the team with 735 successful passes. He made 184 recoveries and won 113 duels for his team as he was always a busy man in the middle of the park. 

NorthEast United FC suffered their heaviest defeat of the season (5-0 away at East Bengal FC) in the only match that he missed this season further highlighting his importance to the team.

Best Young Player 

Parthib Gogoi

The 21-year-old lit up the league with some fine long-range goals and was a constant threat to the opponents. His quick feet and clever movement didn’t allow the opponents to settle making him a real menace in the final third. 

He made nine goal contributions (five goals and four assists) and was the third-highest Indian goalscorer in the league this season. 

What do they need?

While NorthEast United FC need to make additions to the squad, especially a creative midfielder or forwards, the most important thing for them in the summer would be to keep hold of their top performers in 2023-24. 

The Highlanders have created a solid base of players that can form the backbone of the team and some key additions around them would make NorthEast United FC a force to be reckoned with next season. 

It is also important for the team to keep head coach Benali and build on the progress made by the team this season. 

NorthEast United FC haven’t enjoyed too many joyous moments in the ISL, but under Benali, the future looks promising.