Triumphs, challenges, legacy: Ferrando’s journey with Mohun Bagan SG
The Spaniard had a memorable journey with Mohun Bagan Super Giant.
Heading a colossal club like Mohun Bagan Super Giant brings inevitable challenges for any head coach. Beyond just clinching titles, they must navigate the intricate dynamics of managing star-studded dressing rooms while facing relentless media scrutiny and fulfilling the lofty expectations of fans.
When Juan Ferrando assumed command of Mohun Bagan SG from FC Goa midway through the Indian Super League (ISL) 2021-22 season, the team found themselves in desperate need of solutions. A couple of defeats had not only hindered their progress but also raised doubts about the Mariners' playoff prospects.
But Ferrando steered the ship brilliantly. In no time, he showcased extraordinary leadership skills, steering his team through an impressive 13-game unbeaten run. Despite their journey concluding with a narrow miss in the League Shield against Jamshedpur FC and a semi-final defeat to Hyderabad FC, Ferrando's team displayed unwavering resilience and determination.
Their season concluded with the AFC Cup 2022, where Mohun Bagan SG emerged unscathed from their group but faced defeat against Kuala Lumpur City FC, eventual finalists that season.
Ahead of the 2023-24 season, the Mariners fortified their squad with marquee foreign signings such as Jason Cummings, Armando Sadiku, and Hector Yuste. Additionally, they secured the brightest talents in Indian football, including Sahal Abdul Samad, Anirudh Thapa, and Anwar Ali, setting expectations even higher.
The initial challenge came in the form of the Durand Cup, where Mohun Bagan SG, after two initial victories, succumbed to a Kolkata Derby defeat against East Bengal FC in their final group game. However, they stormed into the knockout stages, leaving no room for hesitation.
The Mariners conquered Mumbai City FC and FC Goa, formidable title contenders, earning their spot in the final. In the summit clash, the pressure was palpable, especially after losing to East Bengal FC in the group stage. Yet, a moment of brilliance from Dimitri Petratos broke the deadlock, and Mohun Bagan's robust defensive display secured the club's record 17th title, marking Ferrando's second triumph.
Attention switched to the ISL 2023-24 season, with the Mariners once again being touted as strong contenders. While adhering to his attacking philosophy, Ferrando introduced a tactical shift, transitioning to a three-man backline from the predominantly used four-at-the-back formation last season. This adjustment significantly boosted their attacking capabilities.
Despite their early exit from the AFC Cup in November, the Mariners soared in the league. Unbeaten in seven games, with six victories, they showcased a remarkable ability to score goals, leading the list until their defeat against FC Goa. Their tally of 19 goals from 10 games is still the second-best in the league.
Although three consecutive defeats against Mumbai City FC, FC Goa, and Kerala Blasters FC may have raised doubts about their title credentials, Mohun Bagan SG, under Ferrando's guidance, fought relentlessly in these games. The absence of key players and the fatigue from playing three fixtures in seven days could be argued as factors affecting the results.
However, Ferrando departs with his head held high, delivering Mohun Bagan SG their first ISL title and ending their 23-year wait for the Durand Cup. Under Ferrando, the journey has been one of triumph and team spirit, and his legacy will live on forever.