Running the engine: Top midfielders of Hero ISL 2021-22 season

Pulling the strings as well as cutting them down, the 2021-22 campaign of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) witnessed a deluge of adroit midfielders. Not just by goals but their threat to the opposition along with their influence for their respective team defined the midfielders.

Some seasoned players while some putting their first foot in the Hero ISL, these midfielders acted as a well-oiled machine, making their mark, and delivering for their team in every outing, being a notch above everyone else. Here are the top midfielders of the Hero ISL 2021-22 season.

Adrian Luna - Kerala Blasters FC

Like a queen on a chess board, Adrian Luna made the right move at the right time, no matter the situation. Playing his first-ever Hero ISL season, the midfielder delivered a masterclass under head coach Ivan Vukomanovic and guided his team to their first-ever final since 2016. In only his first season, the Uruguayan became the highest assist provider in the club’s Hero ISL history with seven assists to his name. The midfield maestro also created more chances than any other Blasters’ player in Hero ISL 21-22 season (55), second to only Greg Stewart (67), and made 13 goal contributions (six goals and seven assists), one of only three players to have 10 or more goal contributions in a single Hero ISL season for the Blasters.

Joni Kauko - ATK Mohun Bagan

Kauko was a powerhouse for his side, featuring in 20 out of the 22 games that the Mariners played. The Finnish international became a pivot and a major game-changer under head coach Juan Ferrando. Contributing nine times consisting of three goals and six assists, Kauko climbed to the 2nd place in the overall Hero ISL assists leader board for ATK Mohun Bagan. Defensively, the 31-year-old made 62 tackles, 26 interceptions, 17 clearances, and 16 blocks, being a brick wall for the opposition. Summing up his season, the midfielder stayed true to his name as one of the biggest acquisitions in the Hero ISL history.  

Joao Victor - Hyderabad FC

While Bartholomew Ogbeche might have taken the limelight at Hyderabad FC, Joao Victor toiled hard and remained in the shadows for his side in their title-winning campaign. Victor featured in almost every game, playing a humongous 1891 minutes, averaging 90 minutes a match. The midfielder played a proper midfielder’s role, joining in the attack as well as doing the dirty work in behind. The 33-year-old had six goal contributions, involving five goals and one assist, and as for the defensive work, he made 63 tackles, 41 clearances, 34 interceptions and blocks apiece.

Ahmed Jahouh - Mumbai City FC

The Moroccan upped his game in his second Hero ISL season with Mumbai City FC and was the focal point of head coach Des Buckingham’s gameplan. Jahouh registered the most assists (7) and the most touches (1343) of any Mumbai City FC player. Defensively, the midfielder boasted of an astonishing 100 tackles, 32 interceptions and clearances each, and 23 blocks in 15 games. While he consistently played an integral part for his side, his injury might have been a key reason as to why the Islanders faltered towards the end of the season and were unable to retain their title.

Jitendra Singh - Jamshedpur FC

Singh might have not been the regular eye catchy midfielder you would witness. The youngster flourished under head coach Owen Coyle and massively improved himself over the past two seasons, making him the first choice midfielder at Jamshedpur FC. The midfielder featured in 19 games for his side and made 67 tackles, 23 blocks, 19 interceptions, and 10 clearances. The 20-year-old, who was often lauded by Coyle for his work rate and dedication for the game, churned out his best for his side and helped them win the League Winners’ Shield.

Sahal Samad - Kerala Blasters FC

A late bloomer, if one may say, Sahal arrived at the party late but in style. The midfielder came to clutch in crucial occasions and put his side through in various outings, be it the goal against Mumbai City FC or against Jamshedpur FC in semi-final 1st leg. The 24-year-old is the joint-second highest Indian goalscorer in the league (6 goals), sharing the record with Mumbai City FC’s Bipin Singh. With seven goal contributions, Sahal also became the leading Indian goalscorer in this season for his side. Apart from attacking stats, the midfielder also made 73 tackles, 38 blocks, 19 interceptions, and two clearances in the defensive section.

Javier Hernandez - Odisha FC

The Spaniard was phenomenal in delivering success for Odisha FC. Be it his passing, crosses, or his finishing, Hernandez had his own panache when he was on the ball. With six goals and five assists, the midfielder was the second highest goalscorer and the top assist provider for Odisha FC. What’s unique to his six goals this season is all those goals have come from outside the box, and to add to it, his six goals are the highest number of goals scored from outside the box by any player in any season of the Hero ISL. In terms of goal contributions, the 32-year-old became the first Odisha FC player to contribute five or more goals and five or more assists in the same season of the Hero ISL, proving an unparalleled asset for Odisha FC.

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