Chennaiyin FC’s Iranian defender Vafa Hakhamaneshi expects tough competition for his new team in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) but is determined to restore the Marina Machans as one of the top competitors in the league.

The two-time champions have failed to reach the semi-finals in the last two seasons having qualified for the final in Hero ISL 2019-20.

However, under new head coach Thomas Brdaric, Chennaiyin FC have strengthened the team with signings like Hakhamaneshi and will begin the season with a renewed zest for competing for the top spots.

The 31-year-old who had played for seven seasons in the Iranian top flight is keen on fighting for top honours in India.

"For the first time, a club called me to come here. I searched for Chennaiyin FC on the internet, I saw good stories, good fans and [that they are] two-time champions in the Indian Super League. I came to help the team come back to the top level,” Hakhamaneshi told in an interview.

The Iranian who has also played in Thailand is looking forward to playing in the Hero ISL, a league he feels is fiercely competitive.

"Only 11 teams play [in the Hero ISL] but they are top teams. In Iran, one team will come to the Super League but won't be at a good level. Out of 16 teams, only 12 teams may be good quality," Hakhamaneshi said.

"The Iranian league is so hard because there's very little time between games. You won't have time for a good recovery, to change tactics. In India, I think you have time before the next game to change your mind and tactics, to recover,” he added.

The defender had the liberty of choosing not just one but two Hero ISL clubs two years back. Hakhamaneshi revealed that FC Goa had approached him, and everything was said and done but the deal couldn’t be finalised.

“Yes, two seasons back, FC Goa tried to connect with me but I don’t know why we didn’t finish everything. There were two Indian clubs, Goa and I forgot the other, that sent me an offer. This time, it was Chennai,” he added.