East Bengal FC's latest signing, Madih Talal, credited head coach Carles Cuadrat for his decision to join the club on a two-year deal.

Talal emerged as one of the standout foreign players in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023–24 season, showcasing his talents with Punjab FC. In his debut season on the Indian subcontinent, the 26-year-old playmaker led the league with the highest number of assists (10), demonstrating his exceptional ability.

Known for his adeptness in initiating attacks, precise footwork, visionary passing, and dynamic movement on and off the ball, Talal excelled in an advanced role for Punjab FC. His addition will enhance East Bengal FC’s attacking capabilities and contribute significantly to their style of play.

“The biggest reason (behind joining East Bengal FC) is Carles Cuadrat. The way he discussed it made me sign for the Red and Gold Brigade,” Talal revealed his decision to join East Bengal FC in an interview with Sangbad Pratidin.

“See, I know, the club didn't perform well in the last ISL season. But they reached the finals in two knockout competitions and were champions in one of them. Based on this success, they planned to build a beautiful and long-term project for the future. Another reason is the city of Kolkata itself. This city is ahead of many other cities in the country. The supporters are fantastic; that's another reason. Moreover, East Bengal FC is one of the traditional clubs in the country, and they will play in the AFC next season. Then how can I reject their offer?” he explained.

Talal highlighted how East Bengal FC head coach Carles Cuadrat played a pivotal role in persuading him to join the Red and Gold Brigade during negotiations. Speaking in context, the midfielder said,

“The coach told me many things about the history of the club, its supporters, and the city of Kolkata. He also spoke about the future plans of the club. He also explained how he wanted to utilize me on his team. This is most important for any footballer.”

“Under Cuadrat, East Bengal FC played in two finals. So, it's like a bonus to play under a coach like him. In one word I can say, I really like the coach's words and the club's plans,’ he continued.

Notably, the ISL 2023–24 season was Talal’s first professional stint on Indian soil. The French international exhibited commendable performances in his very first season and was instrumental in Punjab FC’s impressive debut ISL season as they finished eighth in the standings, narrowly missing out on a playoff spot. 

Prior to moving to India, Talal played for several European clubs in the form of France’s Amiens SC, Entente SSG, Red Star FC, and US Avranches, Spain’s Las Rozas CF, and Greece’s A.E. Kifisia. Sharing his observation regarding the differences he experienced between Indian football and European football, Talal commented, “Indian football is different in comparison to European football. Here (in India), it's about more offensive play. But, in Europe, they play defensive football sometimes.”

“But the supporters make the actual differences in the game. The supporters of this country are amazing. Especially in Kolkata. I came to play two ISL games in Kolkata. Every time I saw a jam-packed stadium. The fans always support the players. Every time I felt that Kolkata is a city of football,” he remarked.

East Bengal FC have also roped in ISL 2023-24 Golden Boot winner Dimitrios Diamantakos and Durand Cup 2023 highest scorer David Lalhlansanga while retaining Kalinga Super Cup top goalscorer Cleiton Silva ahead of the upcoming 2024-25 season. With acquiring the services of such prolific forwards in their ranks, Cuadrat’s side boast a formidable offensive unit.

While quizzed about his thoughts on playing alongside such effective forwards, Talal answered, “I'm really excited. I am going to play with the two best goalscorers of the last season. There can't be any more ideal circumstances than this for an attacking midfielder.”

“With Cleiton (Silva) and Diamantakos on the field, my work will be quite easier. David (Lalhlansanga) is also talented. Hope, we, together, can bring smiles to our supporters' faces,” he added.

In the ISL 2023-24 season, the Red and Gold Brigade were knocked out of the playoff berth after suffering a 4-1 defeat against Punjab FC in their final group-stage fixture. Talal had a big say in the result as he was named the Player of the Match after contributing a goal and two assists.

Speaking in context, the midfielder stated, “I knew this context would come. See, I'm professional. I want to give my best for the club I play for. I will give my best with East Bengal FC. Last season went well for me. But I have the potential to play much better. I'll give my 100% with the Red and Gold jersey.”

Spanish midfielder Juan Mera, who was a part of the Shers’ ISL 2023-24 squad, formerly donned East Bengal FC colors during the club’s I-League tenure. He was one of the most fan-favorite footballers during his time with the Red and Gold Brigade. Before joining the squad, Talal got some valuable insights from Mera, who shared his playing experience with the Kolkata-based club.

“I only spoke to Juan Mera. He told me many things about East Bengal FC and Kolkata. And all were positive. He told me, 'As you get a call, go there. The city, the club, and its supporters will fill you with love’,” the midfielder revealed.

Having joined East Bengal FC, Talal will have a taste of the high-octane Kolkata derby. Talal is already buzzing about playing in such an important fixture against against Mohun Bagan Super Giant.

“Considering the supporters' excitement and the atmosphere, this (Kolkata Derby) is the best match I watched on TV. I can't wait to play against Mohun Bagan SG wearing the Red and Gold jersey,” he said.

“There is no doubt that the Derby is special. But we have to prioritize the other games too. There will be two derbies, and we should aim to win the other league games. I always want to win all the derbies, as it will make our fans happy,” Talal signed off.