Jhingan’s groundbreaking move to ATK Mohun Bagan bodes well for Kolkata giants’ future

After months of speculation and anticipation, Sandesh Jhingan’s new club was finally revealed on Saturday and it was ATK Mohun Bagan FC that secured the star defender’s prized signature. Among the most sought-after free agents in the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL), the defender has been tied down to a bumper five-year contract, making this one of the biggest deals in Indian football history.

The 27-year-old India international was revered at his previous club Kerala Blasters FC, with fans fondly calling him ‘The Wall’. He won the ISL Emerging Player of the League in the inaugural 2014 season of the Hero ISL, making 85 clearances, 42 tackles, 31 interceptions and nine blocks as Kerala Blasters agonizingly lost the trophy to ATK FC in the final.

During his time with Kerala Blasters, Jhingan made 76 Hero ISL appearances – the second most by a player for a single Hero ISL club after former FC Goa fan-favourite Mandar Rao Dessai. Versatile in defence, Jhingan can play across the backline as well. His defensive numbers with Kerala are a testament to his prowess with him leading the charts for the Kochi-based club in tackles (194), interceptions (93), clearances (502) and blocks (97).

His best season in terms of numbers was the 2017-18 season when he was made skipper of Kerala Blasters. Jhingan was outstanding in defence for the Blasters over the course of the campaign, making 124 clearances, 50 tackles, 20 blocks and 14 interceptions. Although the Kochi-based club were unable to qualify for the semis, they conceded 22 goals in 18 matches, losing just five times during the season.

He has replicated his club form for country and has been an integral member of the Blue Tigers setup since his senior debut for the national team in 2014. Jhingan was part of the team led by former head coach Stephen Constantine, which went on a 13-match unbeaten run and even captained the side on two occasions during that run.

Having made 36 appearances for the national team, Jhingan is now an established leader in the dressing room alongside Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Sunil Chhetri. He also played an important role in India’s memorable goalless draw against Qatar in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers, which was incidentally his last match for the national team before his season-ending ACL injury.

The defender embarks on a new journey with ATK Mohun Bagan FC with an eye on trophies, continental competition participation and the desire to add to his legacy as one of India’s finest defenders. In Jhingan, the Kolkata giants have signed one of best defenders in India. The club’s defence already has experienced personnel like Tiri, Subhasish Bose and Pritam Kotal, while youngsters like Sumit Rathi add to the balance of the club and will benefit from sharing the dressing room with the expertise of an established national team hero in Jhingan.  

With three trophies at stake for ATK Mohun Bagan FC – the Hero ISL trophy, the League Winners Shield, and the AFC Cup – Jhingan joins a strong side with the right blend of youth and experience. With the safety blanket of Jhingan at the back, ATK Mohun Bagan are already looking like a strong and formidable outfit and can set their sights high in continental competition as well. Jhingan’s presence in the side, in fact, doesn’t just bode well for them in the upcoming season but years to come having put pen to paper on a whopping and historic five-year deal with ATK Mohun Bagan FC.

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