The Indian Super League has seen top-flight foreigners in the previous seasons, including World Cup winners like Marco Materazzi and Alessandro Del Piero. Even though we do not get to see such high-profile names now, there are players who can change the complexion of the games within seconds.
The Indian Super League is already underway and we can’t keep calm, especially with the inclusion of ATK-Mohun Bagan and SC East Bengal this season. The matches may be played inside closed doors, but there is no short of excitement, with the teams all geared to lay hands on the coveted trophy. What’s more remarkable? The transfer market - which has seen a bunch of foreigners flocking to the league, while some have shifted loyalties within domestic perimeters.
Let us now have a look at the top 5 foreigner signings that can dominate 2020-21 ISL:
Hugo Boumous (Mumbai City FC)
The main architect of FC Goa in the previous season, having steered them to an AFC Champions League berth, will represent Mumbai City FC in the new season, with the latter pulling off one of the biggest signings in the transfer window. In normal circumstances, the Moroccan might have extended his stay in Goa, but with Sergio Lobera taking charge at Mumbai City FC - following the footsteps of his former boss was not surprising. With countryman Ahmed Jahouh also following the same route, he is not going to feel like an alien while representing his new employers, with both of them having an understanding between themselves, starting from their FC Goa days. Not only did he score 11 times in the last season, but also provided 10 assists. Even though Boumous lacked the usual flair in the opening match, expect him to fire in the upcoming matches.
Nerijus Valskis (Jamshedpur FC)
The Lithuanian’s story is more or less similar to that of Hugo Boumous except for the fact that Valskis has just played a single season in the Indian Super League, during which he scored 15 goals, earning the Golden Boot for the season. The spectacular season earned Chennaiyin FC a ticket to the play-offs and subsequently qualified for the final of the ISL, even though the ‘Supermachans’ were loitering at the bottom of the points table midway through the season. His association with head coach Owen Coyle was clearly visible, while his shipment to Jamshedpur FC, in the footsteps of the Scot manager, was a matter of time. Apart from his one-year stint with Lithuanian side FK Suduva, where he won the Best Player of the Season and the Golden Boot award in the top-flight league, his display in the 2020-21 ISL was the best in his career. For a team, like Jamshedpur FC, that has struggled to find the net at crucial junctures in the past, the European will be a key addition.
Fran Gonzalez (Bengaluru FC)
New to the Indian Super League, but who can ever forget how he steered Mohun Bagan to their second I-League title last season scoring multiple goals for his side, keeping aside the hard work he’s put in the defensive midfield position. Even though the ‘Mariners’ merged with ATK, resulting in an inflated bank balance, it was startling to see that Mohun Bagan were not inclined to retain his services for the upcoming season. Bengaluru FC was swift to act and roped in the Spaniard for the 2020-21 season, which is undoubtedly a smart purchase, given the fact he was in red hot form last season. The versatility of the player was once again justified when he was played as a defender in the opening game against FC Goa. With the entire season on the cards, Carles Cuadrat will boast of having a player in the dugout, who can play in every position possible inside the pitch.
Anthony Pilkington (SC East Bengal)
A fresh face in the Indian Super League, Anthony Pilkington will don the ‘red and gold’ jersey in the 2020-21 ISL, after he was roped in by the century club following their entry into the top flight. The winger played his career entirely in the United Kingdom - representing several clubs including Huddersfield Town, Norwich City, Cardiff City, and Wigan Athletic. It was during his stay at Carrow Road that he played in three consecutive seasons in the Premier League, having made an impact with the English side. After a couple of seasons with Wigan Athletic in the Championship, the Irishman made up his mind to invade foreign shores and is set to play outside Europe for the first time in his career. With Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler in charge of the Kolkata-based side, it would be handy to have an experienced player like him in the ranks.
Cleiton Silva (Bengaluru FC)
What makes Cleiton Silva special is not the fact that he is a Brazilian or an expensive foreign recruit who's had a glorious past under his belt. But, the amount of football the striker has played in the Asian region, across countries like Thailand as well as China. It has seen Bengaluru’s hunt for a proper goalscorer finally come to a halt, even though he has played as a winger in their opening match, with Norwegian Kristian Ospeth playing as the lone striker. That did stop him from scoring the first goal of their campaign en-route to a 2-2 draw against FC Goa. Having ended up as the highest scorer in the Thai Premier League in the 2012 and 2016 seasons respectively, the Brazilian also earned the ‘Player of the Month’ and the ‘Striker of the Year’ back in 2013. After winning several trophies in Thailand, Cleiton finally decided to ply his trade elsewhere, with Bengaluru FC sniffing the opportunity for the same.