Hyderabad FC’s Souvik Chakrabarti has always diverted from the usual. After becoming a footballer in a family of doctors, his footballing career has also seen a similar trend.

Having started out as a midfielder, Chakrabarti has largely been deployed as a full-back by the different clubs he has represented in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) thanks to his adaptability and versatility as a player.

However, Hyderabad FC head coach Manuel Marquez restored him to the midfield role last year and the 31-year-old excelled in his favoured position as his team went on to be crowned Hero ISL champions.

“Coach Manolo has unearthed plenty of young talent, so most people think he’s only good with youngsters. But trust me, he manages senior players like me equally well,” Chakrabarti told Sportskeeda.com in an interview.

“He’s a great human being and always stands by his players. On the field, he’s very serious but off it, he loves to have fun with us. I haven’t seen many coaches in the ISL who are tactically as strong.

I had been deployed as a full-back since 2015, but coach Manolo moved me back into midfield. He deserves full credit for my success,” he added.

The Kolkata-born footballer made 16 appearances for Hyderabad FC in their title-winning campaign and provided two assists in those games. A winner previously in his Kolkata days, Chakrabarti rates the Hero ISL triumph among his greatest achievements.

“The ISL win was very special as I won it outside Bengal. Winning trophies with Kolkata clubs can put you under the spotlight, but winning outside your comfort zone is more challenging,” he said.

Hyderabad FC left it late to equalise in the final against Hero ISL before going on to win it on penalties. Their ability to come back from tough situations was a hallmark of their triumph last season.

“It depends on a team’s mindset. The best thing about Hyderabad is that nobody panics after conceding a goal. The team doesn’t rely on just one individual, we play a team game,” Chakrabarti said.

“Coach Manolo has complete control over the team and he’s a master tactician. His half-time speeches were very inspiring and he made us work very hard in training to capitalise on set-pieces,” he added.

Chakrabarti is grateful to Hyderabad FC for showing faith in him when the club wasn’t in a position to challenge for top honours and also when he was going through a lot of personal troubles. The 31-year-old feels the club stands out in the way they treat the players.

“They are very supportive. When I joined Hyderabad FC in January 2020, the club were in a very bad situation. They showed faith in me and offered me a long-term contract. It was a big thing for me at the time,” Chakrabarti said.

“Midway through the 2020-21 season, I had to return to Kolkata as my father had fallen seriously ill. I missed nearly 10 matches, yet the club supported me a lot during that period.

I have played for many ISL teams so far, but I haven’t seen this kind of support. I shall always be grateful to Hyderabad FC and coach Manolo for that,” he added.

Marquez’s men have their task cut out in the upcoming season as no team in the Hero ISL has been able to defend their title. Hyderabad FC will look to break that trend.