FC Goa are one of the most consistent clubs in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) history. They have played more matches than any other team, are the only team to score over 300 goals in the league and have registered the second-most wins. 

The Gaurs who have reached the knockout stages on six occasions have failed to progress from the league stage in the last two seasons, finishing ninth and seventh respectively. 

The two-time runners-up though have signalled their intent early on in the transfer window ahead of the Hero ISL 2023-24 campaign by making some big signings like Sandesh Jhingan, Udanta Singh, Rowllin Borges, Boris Singh, Raynier Fernandes and Odei Onaindia. 

These arrivals were preceded by the acquisition of Manolo Marquez as head coach who joined after a highly successful spell at Hyderabad FC. 

The Gaurs whose recruitment in the last few years was focussed on bringing in young players with potential has seen a change with experienced heads leading their incomings this time. Ravi Puskur, director of football at FC Goa, has explained the reason behind the shift in strategy. 

“It’s driven by expectations of our fans,” Puskur told The Times of India in an interview.

“Historically, we have had fans coming and watching our games (at Fatorda), showing that they are behind the team. Last season, that tailed off a little bit, and we felt the fans expected a little bit more from the team. As a club, we have to show that we are serious about our ambitions. The only way we could have done that was to sign players with star power and quality,” he added. 

FC Goa spent most parts of the last season in the playoff spots under Carlos Pena, but fell off at the business end of the season collecting just nine points from the final ten matches. The team from the west coast lacked experience in the crunch moments and the club have looked to address that in the current transfer window. 

“We wanted experienced heads to guide the youngsters and help the team through difficult times. Sandesh (Jhingan), Udanta (Singh), Raynier (Fernandes), Rowllin (Borges), Boris (Singh) are all players who have been around for a while, played the big games, won trophies,” Puskur said. 

“They are here to add that extra depth and quality to the squad, and also, more importantly, be able to be the collective voice in the dressing room to see us through the tough moments,” he added. 

FC Goa have their task cut out if they aim to get back to challenging for top honours again. Mumbai City FC set the standards last season winning the League Winners’ Shield and Mohun Bagan Super Giant have further strengthened their squad after winning the Hero ISL title last season. Odisha FC and East Bengal FC have also been active in the transfer market and the other clubs are also expected to make their moves. 

But Puskur believes that head coach Marquez’s qualities will give them the edge. 

“We believe that our X-factor is the coach, who has consistently for the past three seasons in India, shown that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” Puskur said. 

“The coach has a great way of handling players. It’s clearly evident to us now. He has not yet stepped into the country, but has already interacted and had an impact on the minds of the players. I am sure that will only make us stronger through the course of the season,” he added. 

The Gaurs will look to build an understanding among their new signings and existing players as they prepare for the new season and will look to right the wrongs of the previous two campaigns. 

With a number of quality experienced players added to an already talented bunch who will be led by a proven campaigner in Marquez, FC Goa will be a force to be reckoned with in the Hero ISL next season.