Hero Indian Super League (ISL) side FC Goa have acquired the services of former Odisha FC and Mumbai City FC midfielder Raynier Fernandes on a multi-year deal, the club announced the signing through their social media handles on Wednesday.

The 27-year-old, who recently helped Odisha get their first taste of silverware with the Hero Super Cup win, was also a key figure of the Mumbai City team that won the Hero ISL and the League Winners’ Shield double in 2021.

This is FC Goa’s fifth signing of the window as the Indian international joins fellow national team stars Rowllin Borges, Sandesh Jhingan, and Udanta Singh. Exciting young speedster Boris Singh, meanwhile, joined earlier this week.

“I like to express myself on the field. And FC Goa – their philosophy – gives me the best opportunity to do that. I have been fortunate to be part of some great teams in my career, but I feel there is another level to my game. I believe the Club’s plans for success coincide with mine and thus, the project really appeals to me,” stated Raynier following the completion of formalities.

“I am looking forward to working with coach Manolo (Marquez) and the rest of the team. This is the start of a new chapter in my football career and I am really excited about playing in Goa in front of all the diehard fans.”

Ravi Puskur, FC Goa’s Director of Football also expressed delight at the new signing. He said, “Raynier is an exceptional player whose technical prowess and astute reading of the game are truly outstanding. His creativity, vision for a pass, and ability to maneuver out of tight spaces will undoubtedly add a new dimension to our midfield.

“Beyond his footballing abilities, Raynier’s character will be a tremendous asset to our dressing room. His professionalism, dedication, and positive attitude will undoubtedly contribute to the team’s overall dynamics and cohesion. We eagerly await his presence as part of our squad, as we believe he will make an immediate impact both on and off the pitch.”

Adding quality to the midfield

The midfielder joins former Mumbai City and India teammate Rowllin Borges who arrived earlier this month to Goa. And now alongside the likes of young Brison Fernandes, Ayush Chhetri, and the experienced Brandon Fernandes will form a strong Indian core in midfield.

Raynier kick-started his footballing career with the academy team at Air India FC, from where he secured a move to Mohun Bagan ahead of the 2016-17 season. His time with the Kolkata outfit saw the 27-year-old impress in the I-League as his team finished third.

While at Mohun Bagan, Raynier also got his first taste of continental football, when he played in the AFC Cup for the Mariners. Two years later, he also earned his first cap for the Indian national team, starting in a famous 1-0 win over Thailand.

By then, he had also completed a switch to Mumbai City FC, eventually wrapping up his maiden season in the Hero ISL with two goals and an assist. The 2020-21 season ended spectacularly for the Mumbaikar, winning both the League Winners’ Shield and the Hero ISL Trophy in a rare double. The following season saw him make five appearances in the AFC Champions League for  the Islanders.

For FC Goa, the signing of Raynier Fernandes represents another step forward in the right direction as the Club aims to make a strong impact in the upcoming season.

Bengaluru FC sign Montenegrin defender Slavko Damjanovic

Bengaluru FC have announced the signing of Montenegrin centre-back Slavko Damjanovic on a one-year deal that runs through to the end of the 2023-24 season. Damjanovic, who most recently turned out for Mohun Bagan Super Giant, was part of the side that won the Hero ISL title, and was previously part of Chennaiyin FC in 2021.

“I’m really excited to be a part of the Bengaluru FC family. The club has had two great seasons, but have been unlucky not to win the Hero ISL title. I’m looking forward to meeting my teammates, the coaching staff and supporters. The aim is to give the fans the Hero ISL title, and I hope to be part of a squad that has a successful season,” said Damjanovic, after putting pen to paper on his deal.

Born in Niksic, Montenegro, part of the erstwhile Yugoslavia, Damjanovic turned out for Montenegrin clubs Čelik Nikšić, Mogren, Sutjeska Nikšić and Mornar, before moving to Serbia and playing with Spartak Subotica and Bačka 1901. Damjanovic went on to have stints in South Africa, Hungary, and Uzbekistan before signing for Chennaiyin FC in 2021.

“Slavko is a well-experienced Hero ISL defender who really impressed when he played for ATK Mohun Bagan against us last year. He’ll bring a fantastic attitude, winning mentality, strength and balance to our defensive unit. Overall, I’m really pleased to sign him because we’re bringing in a bit of experience that we’ll need after losing Sandesh (Jhingan), and I’m looking forward to working with him,” said Blues’ Head Coach Simon Grayson.

Damjanovic, who stands at 6’2”, has 29 Hero ISL appearances to his name across two seasons, and scored his only league goal in February 2023, when he opened the scoring in the Kolkata derby as ATK Mohun Bagan won 2-0 against East Bengal.

“Slavko is a well travelled and experienced defender who brings with him the mentality of being a winner. Being a left-footed centre-back, he brings with him a balance that will add to our defensive unit, and we’re certain that he will fit right into our system. On behalf of Bengaluru FC, I’m wishing him the best for his time at the club,” said Blues’ Director of Football, Darren Caldeira.

Slavko is the first of the Blues’ foreign signings ahead of the new season, with the club having already announced the arrivals of winger Halicharan Narzary and goalkeeper Vikram Singh.

Phurba Lachenpa signs Mumbai City FC contract extension

Mumbai City FC goalkeeper Phurba Lachenpa has tied down a three-year contract extension with the Islander, keeping him at the club until May 2026.

Born in Sikkim, Lachenpa began his career with the youth side of Shillong Lajong, where his tenacity earned him a prompt graduation to the first team. A move to Real Kashmir followed in 2019, where Lachenpa was adjudged the best goalkeeper in the Hero I-League, before arriving at Mumbai City FC in 2020.

Lachenpa made his debut for the Islanders’ in incredible circumstances — the then 23-year-old came off the bench in the 2020-21 Hero ISL semi-final penalty shootout against FC Goa — with his heroics helping Mumbai City reach their first ever Hero ISL Final.

In his debut season with the Islanders, Lachenpa won the ‘double’ and went on to cement his spot in the starting XI in the following season in the Hero ISL and at the AFC Champions League. Lachenpa featured in 5 out of 6 games at Asia’s premier club competition, keeping two clean sheets and winning the Man of the Match on one occasion in Mumbai City FC’s historic Champions League campaign.

Phurba Lachenpa said:  “Mumbai City is my second family and my home away from home. This Club backed me, encouraged me and gave me the freedom to express myself. I want to continue to work hard for all the staff, the management, the fans and I want to repay the trust Des Buckingham has put in me. I’m excited to continue this journey and I hope we can bring more moments of joy for our fans and everyone associated with the Mumbai City family.”

Des Buckingham – Head Coach, Mumbai City FC said: "Phurba had a good breakout season after waiting so long for his opportunity. He is a young and talented goalkeeper who has shown his qualities in numerous games last season. He is a humble and extremely hard working player that has progressed his overall game well in the last 12 months. I am very happy he has signed to stay with us for three more years and am excited to continue seeing his growth and development over this time.”

Prashanth K leaves Chennaiyin FC

Chennaiyin FC bid adieu to midfielder Prasanth Karuthadathkuni who leaves the club after representing the club for the 2022-23 season, the club announced his departure through their social media handles on Wednesday.

The midfielder racked up 15 appearances for the two-time Hero ISL champions and registered a goal and an assist in the 2022-23 season.

Making his Hero ISL debut with Kerala Blasters FC, the 26-year-old was one of longest serving players in the Blasters’ squad before he made the switch to southern rivals Chennaiyin FC ahead of the 2022-23 season.