The Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2021-22 was all about goals, nervy moments, late comebacks and plenty of on-field action. We drew close to yet another successful season of the annual football extravaganza. It was a season of firsts, as two teams - Jamshedpur FC and Hyderabad FC, claimed top honours, the League Winners’ Shield and the Hero ISL trophy respectively.

Other teams like Kerala Blasters FC, ATK Mohun Bagan and Mumbai City FC came close but fell short. It was not a cakewalk for any of the 11 teams in the fray, despite spending big in the mid-season to shape the squads in the best possible way. Recruitment-wise, some of the players made their price-tags worth, while many failed to match it.

Let us now have a look at the top-five signings in the Hero ISL 2021-22:

Greg Stewart (Rangers FC to Jamshedpur FC)

For the regular mid-table finishers, an inspirational figure on the field was essential, considering Owen Coyle had already enriched their dugout. A Scottish Premiership winner with Rangers FC, the versatile Greg Stewart was the apt purchase to change the trajectory for the Jamshedpur-based club. Despite a moderate start, things picked up gradually.

It all started with a brace against FC Goa, which helped them register their first win of the season. Stewart scored 10 times and assisted on similar number of occasions to engineer Jamshedpur FC’s League Winners’ Shield triumph. Aided with a magical left-foot, Stewart took 61 shots on target, while registering 73 crosses and maintained a rate of over 40 passes per game.

Liston Colaco (Hyderabad FC to ATK Mohun Bagan)

Arguably the best Indian singing in the history of the Hero ISL. Having impressed with his pace and striking ability in the previous season for Hyderabad FC, Colalco was a hot property in the transfer market. Ready to reach deep into their pockets, ATK Mohun Bagan did not hesitate to rope in the future prospect. The dividends were instantaneous and came with a premium.

Also Read: Hero ISL 2021-22 in numbers: Greater Indian participation translated into more goal involvement for Indian players

The speedy winger started the campaign with a sensational goal against Kerala Blasters FC in the curtain raiser. No looking back for him since then. Along the way, he breached the goal eight times and assisted on four occasions to set the tone for the Mariners’ campaign. To document his added impact, Colaco had taken a total of 84 shots, the most by any player in the season, along with 42 crosses.

Adrian Luna (Melbourne City FC to Kerala Blasters FC)

After years of pre semi-final exits, the Kerala Blasters FC fans deserved a leader to further their cause and break the jinx one and for all. Adrian Luna emerged as the ‘Messiah’ for the Yellow Army. Leading the charge from the first game itself, the fans sensed something special down the line, with head coach Ivan Vukomanovic also raising the hopes. What transpired was something to cherish.

The Uruguayan was in the thick of things in the playmaking zone, having turned games in Blasters’ favour throughout the season. With six goals, seven assists, coupled with his ability to penetrate into the final third, Luna had been nightmarish to the opposition defence. Overall, he managed to take 30 shots and provided 66 crosses in the Hero ISL 2021-22.

Bartholomew Ogbeche (Mumbai City FC to Hyderabad FC)

With silverware already in the kitty during his Mumbai City FC days, Bartholomew Ogbeche embarked on a mission more challenging than his previous pursuits. At a tiring age, many would have not given him a chance to outshine his previous exploits. However, head coach Manuel Marquez had faith in him, as well as the entire Hyderabad FC unit, and he did not disappoint.

The goal machine was on the scoresheet more often than not, having netted 18 times in 20 matches, along with an assist. With 66 shots, Ogbeche was the main driving force behind Hyderabad FC’s stellar run in the Hero ISL 2021-22, eventually guiding the side to their first ever title win. In the process, he also became the all-time highest goal scorer in the history of the competition.

Apuia (NorthEast United FC to Mumbai City FC)

After a major breakthrough season for NorthEast United FC, big spenders down the west coast hired Apuia’s services for their title defence. Mumbai City FC already had enough firepower in their arsenal, with the midfielder’s addition making it more lethal. Apuia carried on from where he left last season and formed a commendable partnership with Ahmed Jahouh in the heart of the midfield.

In 20 matches, the playmaker stitched up 990 passes (fourth highest in the league), at a rate of almost 50 per game. Apuia registered 103 tackles in the same time frame, which is the second highest for any player this term. Apart from which, he made 36 interceptions, 16 clearances and 44 blocks - thus proving to be a vital cog in the setup.