Hero Indian Super League (ISL) side Mumbai City FC, on Monday, confirmed that the club has reached an agreement with Hyderabad FC for the transfer of Akash Mishra for an undisclosed fee. The talented young left-back joins the defending Hero ISL League Shield Winners on a five year contract until May 2028.

Akash Mishra said: “To arrive at a club like Mumbai City FC, it is a moment of pride for me and my family. The vision and ambition this club has is for everyone to see but more importantly, it gives me the best platform to grow and progress my career. I’ve spoken to coach Des who has shown a lot of faith in me and to be able to play football the way he envisions it, it’s one of the many things that excites me about joining Mumbai City FC.”

“Much like mine, the club’s aspirations go beyond domestic success, aiming to leave a mark in Asia as well and I am excited to represent Mumbai City FC at the highest possible levels. At just 21, I have a lot to learn, a lot to experience and I’m looking forward to meeting my new teammates, the staff and our fans. I want to thank Hyderabad FC for their support and affording me the opportunity to represent them, and I am excited to begin a new chapter of my life in Mumbai.”

Hailing from the town of Balarampur in Uttar Pradesh, Akash began his footballing journey playing locally and for his school before making the move to the U Dream Football Academy in Germany in 2015 at the age of 14. Three years on, he returned to India to represent the Indian Arrows and made his debut in the I-League in the 2018-19 season. In 23 appearances over two seasons for the Arrows, Akash impressed with solid performances and earned himself a call up to the India Under-18 National Team. His standout displays continued as Akash scored twice in seven games, winning the 2019 SAFF U18 Championship.

A move to Hyderabad FC followed for Akash ahead of the 2020-21 season where the young left-back went on to become a key cog for Manolo Marquez’s side. Akash played every minute of league football for Hyderabad FC in his debut season before appearing in every game in the 2021-22 campaign, en route to winning the Hero ISL Final. His consistent performances were recognised as he was named the Young Player of the Year by the Football Players’ Association of India in 2022.

A call up to the senior Indian National Team was no surprise as Akash made his debut for the Blue Tigers in an international friendly against Oman in March 2021. Now a regular left-back for the country under Igor Stimac, the 21-year-old has 16 international caps to his name.
Considered as one of India’s top footballing talents, Akash joins Mumbai City FC as the Islanders prepare to participate in the 2023-24 AFC Champions League and defend their Hero ISL League Shield.

Des Buckingham – Head Coach, Mumbai City FC said: “Akash possesses a wide range of positive attributes required in the modern game and is an exciting prospect. His signing continues our promise of developing young players and we are pleased he has trusted our club to progress in the next stage of his career. He is a mature young man and we look forward to helping him realise and reach his potential. Akash will provide us with a different approach to playing and is someone who I am looking forward to working with. He will find himself in an environment alongside our other players who push each other daily and I look forward to welcoming him as we continue to build and develop as a group together.”

East Bengal FC sign Harmanjot Khabra, Mandar Rao Dessai & Edwin Vanspaul

East Bengal FC have acquired the services of the experienced Harmanjot Singh Khabra, Edwin Sydney Vanspaul and Mandar Rao Desai on free transfers, who have collectively played 337 Hero ISL matches.

While Vanspaul joins the Red & Gold brigade on a two-year contract, Khabra and Mandar will be with the club till the end of the 2023-24 season.

Welcoming Mandar, Edwin and Khabra to the East Bengal FC family, Mr Debabrata Mukherjee of Emami Group said, “Among the three of them, they have won every trophy that Indian football has to offer. Their quality, versatility, experience and winning mentality will add strength and depth to our squad.”

East Bengal FC head coach Carles Cuadrat explained how the trio’s vast experience will benefit his team. He said, “In Mandar we have an experienced player who has also captained his teams in the past and will add a lot of value to our team. Khabra is a very experienced player. More importantly, he is someone who knows the club and is loved by the fans. He was one of my captains at Bengaluru FC, and he’ll again be one of my captains at East Bengal FC. Vanspaul’s greatest strength is his ability to play in multiple positions. He is an extremely passionate footballer who always goes that extra yard for his team.”

Left-back Mandar, who became the first player to make 100 Hero ISL appearances in 2020, hopes to play a pivotal role in the Red & Golds’ resurgence. “It feels great to join East Bengal FC. It’s a new challenge for me and I want to contribute to the team in whatever capacity is required of me. Coach Carles is a fine tactician and wonderful human being. I am glad to get another opportunity to playing under him. I can’t wait to wear the Red & Gold jersey and help the team win,” said the 31-year-old Mandar who has won a Hero ISL Winners’ Shield with FC Goa, and two League Winners’ Shields and a Hero ISL title with Mumbai City FC.

35-year-old Khabra, meanwhile, returns to East Bengal after a seven-year hiatus. Known for his versatility in both defence and midfield, the TATA Football Academy graduate had a trophy-laden seven-year spell at East Bengal FC between 2009 and 2016. The former East Bengal FC captain won two Federation Cups, one IFA Shield, one Indian Super Cup and seven consecutive CFL titles with the heritage club during the said period.

In the Hero ISL, Khabra has played 128 matches, winning the title with Chennaiyin FC (2015) and Bengaluru FC (2018-19), and finishing runners-up with Kerala Blasters FC in 2021-22. Speaking about his reunion with East Bengal, a nostalgic Khabra said, “I am incredibly excited to return home. This club has given me so much and here’s a chance for me to relive all of that! I can’t wait to give my 100% in front of our fans. I am especially looking forward to the derby, a game that always gave us an extra push in the past. There’s also a sense of excitement to be working with Coach Carles again, who has played a big role in making me a better player.”

Vanspaul, whose four-year stint with Chennaiyin FC ended last month, is all set to start a new chapter in his career with East Bengal FC. The Tamil Nadu-born footballer was instrumental in Chennai City FC’s only Hero I-League triumph in 2018-19 before making his foray into the Hero ISL the following season. Vanspaul played a massive part in helping CFC finish runners-up in the 2019-20 Hero ISL, switching seamlessly from a full-back role to a midfield role. In 71 Hero ISL appearances so far, the 30-year-old has registered one goal, three assists, 1,811 passes, 101 interceptions and 97 clearances.

On joining East Bengal FC, Vanspaul said, “We all know about Kolkata’s football heritage and legacy. So, for me, joining an iconic club like East Bengal is a huge deal. Whenever I’ve played against East Bengal FC in the past, I’ve always marvelled at the club’s spectacular fan base. I want to be a part of this culture now. I can’t wait to play under coach Carles and reunite with my good friend Nandha(kumar Sekar).”