Hero Indian Super League (ISL) outfit Mohun Bagan Super Giant have completed the signing of midfielder Sahal Abdul Samad from Kerala Blasters FC on a five-year contract, while veteran defender Pritam Kotal has headed in the opposite direction, the two clubs announced on Friday.

Sahal who has developed into one of the most talented midfielders in India expressed delight at joining the Kolkata giants.

“I'm filled with pride at the thought of wearing the Mohun Bagan Super Giant jersey. The prospect of playing in the derby, wearing the Green and Maroon jersey, fills me with immense excitement. The stands will be packed with supporters passionately cheering for our team,” said Sahal after putting pen to paper.

Having risen through the ranks from the Blasters’ academy side, Sahal made his Hero ISL debut with Kerala Blasters FC in the 2017-18 season. Soon, he grew into prominence at the club with his silky smooth dribbling and quick footwork. Within no time, Sahal’s on-pitch performance wooed the Blasters’ faithful and turned him into one of the most popular and favourite players of the Kerala side.

The midfielder had his breakthrough campaign in the following 2018-19 season as he won the Hero ISL Emerging player of the year award. His exploits with the Blasters earned him a call-up to the Indian national team where he made his debut at the King’s Cup in Thailand.

“Renowned players from Kerala, such as IM Vijayan and Jo Paul Ancheri, gained recognition by playing for Kolkata clubs, and many others have also represented them. I will speak with them before travelling to Kolkata, seeking their suggestions and blessings. They are still regarded as icons in Kolkata. Similarly, I aspire to win the hearts of the supporters, just as they did. I will seek the blessings and love of the MBSG fans,” he said on making his move to the Kolkata side.

Sahal’s best performance came in the Hero ISL 2021-22 season under debutant head coach Ivan Vukomanovic as he reached his best figures till date. The midfielder netted six goals and supplied one assist across 21 games, being one of the vital cogs in the side’s run-up to the final.

Having amassed 97 appearances for the Blasters, the 26-year-old leaves the club as the highest capped player for the Yellow Army. In his 97 appearances, the midfielder has repaid with 10 goals and nine assists across all competitions. His nine assists are the most by any Indian player for the Kochi-based side.

Kerala Blasters FC acquire the services of Pritam Kotal

Kerala Blasters FC, on Friday, announced the signing of Pritam Kotal from Mohun Bagan Super Giant. Kotal, 29, has signed a three-year contract with the Blasters, which will keep him at the club until the summer of 2026.

Kotal’s football journey began with the youth team of Chirag United, where an impressive stint opened doors to the India U-19 side. In 2011, Pritam joined the All India Football Federation’s developmental I-League side, Indian Arrows. He made 26 appearances for Arrows before earning a move to Mohun Bagan, in 2013, where he quickly established himself as a first-team regular.

In 2014, Kotal made his Hero Indian Super League (ISL) debut with FC Pune City, following his transfer from Mohun Bagan. Since then, he has represented several Hero ISL teams, including Delhi Dynamos, ATK, and Mohun Bagan Super Giant. Throughout his nine seasons in the Hero ISL, he has made a total of 143 appearances.

Commenting on the successful signing of Pritam Kotal, Kerala Blasters Sporting Director Karolis Skinkys said:

“Pritam is a player with a tremendous work ethic and winning mentality. It is very rare to see players like Pritam who, despite having enjoyed the kind of success that he has enjoyed over the years, still want to reinvent themselves, get better, and maintain their standard of play. He brings a wealth of experience and leadership to our squad. There is no doubt that he is one of the finest players in Indian football. I am elated to have Pritam in our squad and expect nothing but great things from him this upcoming season.”

The former title-winning captain of MBSG is one of the most experienced defenders in Indian football and has amassed 11 trophies in his career so far, both for club and country. This includes three Hero ISL titles, three SAFF Championships, and two Hero Intercontinental Cups.

Since making his international debut in 2015, he has been a mainstay in the defense and has regularly featured for the Blue Tigers. He has made over 50 appearances for the Indian national team.

Commenting on the occasion, an elated Kotal said,

“I am delighted to join Kerala Blasters FC and embark on this new chapter of my career. The club’s rich history and passionate fanbase make it an exciting opportunity for me. I am eager to contribute my skills and leadership to the team and work towards achieving our collective goals. I am grateful for the trust placed in me by Kerala Blasters FC, and I promise to give my absolute best on the field. Together with my new teammates, I am confident that we will create memorable moments and bring success to the club. I am eagerly looking forward to wearing the Kerala Blasters jersey and making our fans proud. Let’s go, Blasters!”

Gursimrat Gill joins brother Prabhsukhan at East Bengal FC 

East Bengal FC on Friday announced the signing of Gursimrat Singh Gill on a three-year contract. The 25-year-old centre-back has represented several Hero ISL teams in the past such as Bengaluru FC, NorthEast United FC, Mohun Bagan Super Giant and Mumbai City FC.

Gursimrat joins his younger brother and goalkeeper Prabhsukhan in the East Bengal FC team, with the latter signing from Kerala Blasters FC.

"I take huge honour in representing this century-old club. I am blessed to be given an opportunity to wear this iconic jersey. I'll give my best for the fans every time I take the field. There's no better motivation than playing for these fans," Prabhsukhan said in a club statement.

East Bengal FC head coach Carles Cuadrat said: “I am glad to welcome the Gill brothers to the East Bengal FC squad. Both of them made their Hero ISL debuts under me. Even while they were at Bengaluru FC, they never seemed overwhelmed by the presence of the senior players and gave their best in each training session. Hence, I also used them in the AFC Cup at times."