(Image credits: FC Dynamo Kyiv)

East Bengal FC have roped in Serbian defender Aleksandar Pantić for the remainder of the current Indian Super League (ISL) season to replace Jose Antonio Pardo, who has been ruled out of the season due to an injury. Pantić has plied his trade across several top European clubs like Villarreal CF, Red Star Belgrade and Dynamo Kyiv and the centre-back has also represented Serbia’s U-19 and U-21 teams in the past.

Welcoming Pantić to the East Bengal FC, Mr Vibhash Vardhan Agarwal of Emami Group said, “Pantić has good experience of playing in top-flight European leagues. We believe he’ll add more solidity to our defence and help us in our quest for the playoffs. It’s really unfortunate to miss Pardo for the remainder of the season due to an injury. We wish him a speedy recovery and will continue to support him through this difficult phase.”

Commenting on Pantić’s inclusion, East Bengal FC Head Coach Carles Cuadrat said, “In Pantić we have a player with huge experience of playing for top European clubs like Villarreal, Dynamo Kyiv and Red Star Belgrade. I know him from my stint in Cypriot football, and it’s very good for us that he was playing for Doxa just until the last transfer window.”

Cuadrat also acknowledged Emami Group’s swiftness in finding able replacements, saying, “It’s challenging to find quality free players once the transfer market closes, but the management has worked tirelessly and supported me whenever we’ve had to find good replacements. First finding Hijazi as Elsey’s replacement in September and now signing Pantić for the spot left vacant by Pardo - I really appreciate the fact that the management understands the situation and is working in the right direction. We are waiting to meet Pantić as soon as his visa is issued.”

Excited to join East Bengal FC, Pantić, who has played in the top divisions of Serbia, Spain, Ukraine, Poland and Cyprus, said, “It gives me immense pleasure to join a legendary club like East Bengal. The club has had many wonderful moments this season and I want to do my best to make our fans happier. I am grateful to Coach Carles and the East Bengal management for giving me this opportunity. Joy East Bengal!”

East Bengal FC bids farewell to Jose Pardo

East Bengal FC and Spanish defender Jose Antonio Pardo have mutually agreed to part ways following the confirmation of his injury, which is now expected to keep him out for the remainder of the season. The 35-year-old sustained a foot injury during their 3-2 loss against NorthEast United FC and was forced to be substituted off at halftime.

"Unfortunately, we have to bid farewell to a very loved player from our Super Cup-winning squad. A bad foot injury during our match against NorthEast United FC means an early end to the season for Pardo," said Cuadrat.

Pardo had joined the Kolkata giants prior to the season and gradually adapted to Carles Cuadrat’s system. He featured in 11 matches in the ISL, contributing to his team's two clean sheets with 24 clearances, 4 blocks, and 11 interceptions.

While primarily a centre-back, Pardo also operated in the central midfield position and displayed a knack for long-distance shots. He played a pivotal role in East Bengal FC’s Kalinga Super Cup triumph last season. Unfortunately, his injury will be a setback for the Red and Gold Brigade, who are currently facing challenges in the league. They will now look to their newly recruited foreigner, Pantic, to effectively fill the void left by Pardo.