Young Turks make a mark: U-21 stars who impressed throughout Hero ISL 2021-22

The Hero ISL 2021-22 has been a breakthrough season in all respects, with most goals, passing accuracy, unique Indian goal scorers and much more. Either way, Indian football was the real winner to say the least. While the experienced domestic campaigners lit up the season with their usual antics, many youngsters marked their arrival in the pro-level.

The colts made such a big impact that the Indian national team head coach summoned the players for international friendlies, while few must have missed out. Despite that, each of them has the potential to make it big.

Here are the top U-21 Indian players from the Hero ISL 2021-22:

Rohit Danu (Hyderabad FC)

The disappointment of not making it to the final squad of the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup was always playing at the back of his mind. But, Rohit Danu moved on and made some valuable contributions for the Indian Arrows in the I-League before he was roped in by Hyderabad FC for the big occasion in 2020. However, he played only 30 minutes in the Hero ISL 2020-21.

Manuel Marquez kept faith in the young lad and handed more opportunities to the youngster in the following term. In 17 matches played this season, Danu scored twice and even assisted once, apart from making a few serious contributions in the build-up play. The footballer produced 14 shots and 25 crosses in the same time frame, with 214 passes (67.75% accuracy).

Vikram Partap Singh (Mumbai City FC)

The striker made the headline after scoring a goal against Oman in the AFC U-23 Championship 2022 Qualifiers, which helped India script a memorable win. Already in the Mumbai City FC setup, Vikram was not treated with enough game time in the Hero ISL 2020-21, as they claimed a historic double.

With fewer options to choose from this time around, Vikram automatically fitted in the scheme of things with an added responsibility in his shoulders. In 16 matches, the forward struck three times, while came close to netting a few times more. Apart from that, he has taken 16 shots, produced a similar number of crosses, and made 35 tackles along the season.

Akash Mishra (Hyderabad FC)

The side-back featured in each and every match for Hyderabad FC, having played the entire 90 minutes in 21 of those. The above statement almost justifies how important Mishra was for his side. Overall, the footballer has registered 843 passes, at a rate of 36.65 per match, with an accuracy of almost 70%, scoring two goals and providing three assists in the same.

However, it was his defensive duties that made him stand out from the rest. Mishra made 97 tackles (the most by a Hyderabad FC player), 56 interceptions, which is the highest by any player in the Hero ISL 2021-22, along with 62 clearances and 36 blocks.

Also Read: Making each second count: U-23 stars who played the most number of minutes in Hero ISL 2021-22 season

Jitendra Singh (Jamshedpur FC)

The 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup star was always knocking at the door, waiting to unleash his potential on the big stage and finally it’s happening. Jitendra was a mainstay in the playing XI, having made 19 appearances this season, with several contributions in the midfield.

Throughout the season, he has stitched up 434 passes at an accuracy of 74.42%, taken 11 shots, produced two crosses and even scored once. Singh was astute in his defensive skills as well, having made 67 tackles, 19 interceptions, 10 clearances and 23 blocks. He was a livewire in the midfield en-route Jamshedpur FC’s League Winners’ Shield triumph.

Ruivah Hormipam (Kerala Blasters FC)

There is hardly any young player other than Ruivah Hormipam who has made more impact in the Hero ISL 2021-22. Kerala Blasters FC was injected with a new lease of life after the defender was brought into the scheme of things, having been a rock in front of the castle. Hormipam’s arrival in the scene coincided with the Blasters’ 10-match unbeaten run that changed the complexion of their season.

In 14 matches he played this season, Blasters kept a clean sheet in six of them, with a part of the credit going to Hormipam as well. Maintaining an average of 33.64 passes per game, the centre-back has made 57 tackles, 31 interceptions, 67 clearances and 11 blocks. His exploits even earned him a national call-up ahead of India’s friendly matches in Bahrain.

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