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ISL: Krishna, Williams have changed the landscape for A-League stars — and India has taken note

ISL: Krishna, Williams have changed the landscape for A-League stars — and India has taken note


Published: 25 Jun 2020 8:10 AM GMT

The Indian Super League (ISL) is emerging as a new ‘hot drop’ for A-League's top footballers ahead of the upcoming season.

‘Hot drop’, a term Battle Royale game enthusiasts, typically PUBG players, will be familiar with, is used to describe a popular place which attracts a lot of players. Unless you have been living under a stone in this quarantine period, you would know that several A-League stars have been linked with ISL clubs, even though the A-League 2019/20 season is yet to be concluded.

Adam Le Fondre, Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Aaron Calver, Nigel Boogard, Joel Chianese, Bradden Inman, Joshua Brillante, Besart Berisha are some of the names who have been rumoured to be eager to make a switch to India, and there are more. The ISL clubs have also taken an active interest in bringing onboard A-League stars and by the end of the transfer window, we might very well see a few of them plying their trade in India.

Part of the problem the A-League is encountering is the pandemic that has caused havoc all across the globe, which brings us to the question: would this exodus be happening if it weren’t for the coronavirus outbreak? It is a question that is being asked not just by those in the A-League with a vested interest in downplaying the current turmoil but also by influential people in Indian football.

Adam Le Fondre Sydney FC star Adam Le Fondre is in talks with at least 5 ISL clubs (Source: FoxSports Asia)

Indeed, Covid-19 has dealt a severe blow to several Australian clubs, most of whom stood down their entire squads when the season was suspended back in March-end. But truth is, not all clubs are in distress and players like Le Fondre, Brillante have nothing to be worried about. They can get lucrative offers to play anywhere in the world. Then why India?

Some believe that the success of Roy Krishna and David Williams, former Wellington Phoenix stars, is the reason behind the A-League’s ‘pivot to ISL’. The title run that defined Antonio Lopes Habas’ return to ATK FC was enacted on two fronts.

One was on the pitch, where the entire team progressed spectacularly through the season, reflecting the stellar work done by Habas on the training ground. The other was on the transfer table, where ATK enjoyed more victories than defeats. Along with the usual suspects from Spain and Britain, the club brought in four stars from A-League — Krishna, Williams Dario Vidosic, and Mandi Sosa (winter transfer window).

Although Vidosic did not get much of a chance to make his mark, Krishna and Williams proved to be one of the deadliest combinations in the ISL as the duo romped up 22 goals and 11 assists through the season. Such has been the duo’s influence that it has fundamentally changed the entire conversation around foreign stars in the ISL. A key element of the agents’ pitch to the ISL clubs is that the said player could become their Krishna.

Roy Krishna Roy Krishna finished as the league's top scorer with 15 goals (Source: ISL)

Of course, there can be no denying that money is also a factor and the financial terms on offer from ISL clubs are better than what A-League clubs are prepared to pay at the moment. But those familiar with the Krishna and Williams deals insist that if wages were indeed the driving force they would have instead gone to Major League Soccer (MLS) or Japan or the Middle East and not India.

An agent of an A-League star, who wanted his identity to be withheld, told this reporter, “The A-League has been in turmoil since Covid-19. Now, even with the season restarting, there are no guarantees for the future. The top players of the league are looking out for other options and India is a tempting destination for many. I am not saying that there aren’t any offers from the A-League for these players, there are. But at this moment, the inclination is more towards coming to India, playing in front of jam-packed crowds and testing new waters.”

The perception is that the likes of Krishna and Williams have never seen as much craze for football in their entire career. People in the know claim that Williams was overwhelmed with the kind of support and crowd he saw in Kolkata during his team’s second leg semifinal clash against Bengaluru FC. He had never experienced anything like it before.

Wilbur Lasrado of Inventive Sports, who represents former Perth Glory star Andy Keogh, conceded, "The fans in India are now breaking the trend of a sofa sort game to become a stadium goer and creating a crazy atmosphere for the players every time they get on the pitch. This of course has been the highlight along with the lifestyle and few others aspects which are taken into consideration to attract the big names from the A-League to Indian shores."

What is happening now is that the sporting directors and key decision makers of ISL clubs have too many CVs from the A-League lying on their desks. Compared to where the ISL clubs were only a couple of years ago, targeting big names simply to satisfy the league’s requirements for ‘marquee’ signings, this is a good problem to have. Whether by luck, design or the combination of the two, the ultimate goal, to improve the overall quality of football in India, is being realised, slowly but surely.

Also read: Sydney FC star Adam Le Fondre in advanced talks with Hyderabad FC

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