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Home Football Exclusives ISL: How ATK Mohun Bagan signed Sandesh Jhingan — A 'tailored' exit...

ISL: How ATK Mohun Bagan signed Sandesh Jhingan — A ‘tailored’ exit clause

Former Kerala Blasters star Sandesh Jhingan has signed a 5-year deal with Indian Super League (ISL) outfit ATK Mohun Bagan FC, ahead of the upcoming season.

The Bridge understands that the deal makes Jhingan the highest-paid Indian footballer in the ISL at the moment with sources describing it as ‘a deal no one has seen before in India or ISL’. The contract also has ‘exit’ clauses which have been tailored to suit Jhingan’s future plans.

To secure Jhingan’s signing, the Kolkata giants had to stave off stiff competition from Bengaluru FC, FC Goa, Mumbai City FC, East Bengal FC and Odisha FC, and it was no easy race.

While all the clubs were offering big-money, long-term contracts, ATK Mohun Bagan’s proposed exit clauses are understood to be the most transparent and expedient to Jhingan, a big reason why he opted for the club. The clauses allow him to leave for his preferred club, in his preferred transfer window, in his preferred way — something no other club offered. Along with that, the prospect of being genuine title challengers in the ISL and the AFC Cup also acted as catalysts in Jhingan’s decision making.

It all started when news broke out that Jhingan and Blasters were mutually bringing an end to what had been a very successful six-year relationship. The national team defender had signed a new contract with Blasters, reportedly worth Rs 3.8 crore in 2017 (the highest-paid Indian defender in the league), and had two more years left at the club.

However, the financial impact of Covid-19 proved to be a little heavy for the management who decided to safeguard the coffers. Most of the players were asked to take pay cuts or find other clubs which, obviously, did not go down well. Leading goalscorer Bartholomew Ogbeche left while the transfer deal for José Luis Espinosa Arroyo, better known as Tiri, also fell through. Jhingan was the next to follow.

Initially, the plan at Jhingan’s camp was to look for newer opportunities in foreign lands. Given the 27-year-old’s pedigree, in an ordinary transfer window, it would not have been difficult to get a club in Germany or Scotland or Spain. But again, restrictions due to the pandemic meant that chances of securing a move this window were always going to be slim.

ISL clubs, obviously, were already after him. Odisha FC made no attempts to hide their intentions of signing him at any cost, East Bengal made a significant offer, Mumbai believed that they would get their man. Bengaluru and Goa wouldn’t give up until the last moment but, over the last week or so, Jhingan had inclined towards ATK Mohun Bagan. While reports last week suggested he had agreed terms, truth is, an agreement was reached only a couple of days back and the signing was completed today.

With this signing, the newly-formed entity has made a big statement ahead of the start of the seventh season. Arch rivals East Bengal FC are set to enter the league this season and given the current fan sentiments, it is imperative that the Green and Maroons give a good account of themselves on the pitch. Having Jhingan in the ranks will be a significant boost for Antonio Lopes Habas and his team.

Also read: Why ATK Mohun Bagan is the perfect destination for Sandesh Jhingan

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