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Home Football ISL 2019-20: Why NorthEast United FC should look to Ranko Popovic in...

ISL 2019-20: Why NorthEast United FC should look to Ranko Popovic in their hunt for a new manager ?


NorthEast United have sacked Croatian head coach Robert Jarni and it led to plenty of reactions.

The final straw for the club’s board with Jarni came on February 10 evening after a 3-3 draw against Jamshedpur FC.

Jarni, whose last assignment was with the Croatian U-19 team, leaves NorthEast with his reputation negatively impacted as the Highlanders have struggled in the ongoing season of Indian Super League (ISL) and are languishing in ninth spot, with merely 13 points from 15 matches in the league this season.

With just two wins from 15 matches in ISL 2019-20 season NorthEast UNited FC are languishing at ninth spot on the table. (Image: NEUtdFC)
With just two wins from 15 matches in ISL 2019-20 season NorthEast UNited FC are languishing at ninth spot on the table. (Image: NEUtdFC)

This is not the first time that the Highlanders have sacked their coach midway through the season.

In season four of the league, Portuguese Joao de Deus was shown the door after a dreadful run of seven games. This season, Jarni ’s side managed to claim only two victories in 15 games.

Things became so bad that the supporters club Highlanders Brigade decided to boycott NEUFC’s home matches. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that fans and pundits in the country did not see this move coming.

NorthEast are in crisis territory and their next move could be huge in determining both their short- and long-term future. They need a manager with a strong identity, someone who can wake up a sleeping giant. The answer for all the questions for NorthEast United could be Ranko Popovic.

Popovic, after stepping down as head coach of FC Pune City, expressed his desire to return to India in the future if the right opportunity came calling. 

Speaking to Goal, Popovic, said,

Yes, I feel I will come back to India at some point of time in the future. I loved working there.”

Popovic has firmly established himself in the ISL due to his remarkable efforts with FC Pune City. He took over the role in September 2017 and his impact was almost immediate. The Serbian during his time in the ISL guided FC Pune City to their first ever play-off spot in the 2017-18 season.

Prior to FC Pune City, Popovic had a fruitful time at Cerezo Osaka in the J-League. Later at Buriram United FC in Thailand, he won the Thai League Cup and Mekong Club Championship. In the 2014-15 season, he led Segunda Division club Real Zaragoza to finals of the La Liga playoffs.

Success is an obvious big positive for any managerial CV, particularly with a club who should hold significant ambitions like NorthEast United.

The aim should be to return to the top-four and that process starts with restoring pride to the dressing room, finding a unity in this hour of struggle.

With home attendances dwindling, NorthEast United are firmly on the decline in multiple departments and a strong managerial appointment can galvanise all areas of the club.

Ultimately, NorthEast United needs someone who can meet the three key principles of the football club – promoting youth players, playing exciting football and most importantly the ability to win football matches.

Popovic is the man to tick all the boxes, both for their aims over the short- and long-term. If NorthEast United are serious about returning to their former glories, Popovic is the road worth going down.


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