Almost from the moment Northeast qualified for the playoffs last season, they knew they were reaching the end of their time together. In the summer, the team was ripped apart as their best players were enticed away with big money offers.
The man behind Northeast United’s charge to the Indian Super League (ISL) semi-finals last term, star striker Bartholomew Ogbeche felt that Kerala Blasters’ offer was too hard to turn down. Midfield lynchpin Rowlin Borges also departed for Mumbai City FC.
With the exodus, there was sadness and mourning among the Northeast faithful. Northeast’s charge to the ISL semi-finals was a fairytale with an excruciating ending. A bittersweet symphony.
The fear was they would never get this far again given the growing differences in spending power. Northeast’s wage bill last season was lowest yet they forged a team capable of upstaging the more fancied teams. They did not poach the best players; they did not buy the established stars everyone wanted. Shrewd recruitment was the reason behind Northeast’s success last season.
After the highs of last season, this term has been an utter disappointment with the team languishing in ninth-place. The reason for their poor show is because they have failed to create an impact going forward. The Highlanders have the worst attack in the league, one that has managed mere 14 points from 18 matches with a goal difference of -14.
If the team from the Northeast harbours hopes for a playoffs spot next season one key area where they would want to strengthen is their attack.
Let us look at two potential players that can strengthen the offensive department.
Komal Thatal featured for India in the FIFA U-17 World Cup. Post the tournament he opted to sign for ATK after impressing many in his solo appearance against the USA.
The Sikkimese winger has managed to get only 595 minutes of competitive action under his belt since joining ATK. Few would doubt his potential but there is a big question mark over his powers of reasoning. Rather than joining Indian Arrows, he had opted for the riches of ISL.
It is time Komal takes a call on what would be best for his career. Where can he develop in the best possible manner? Where does he get to play the most?
The most important thing is finding the right club – not the biggest offer but the club that offers him the best chance to hone his abilities.
And Northeast United could just be the platform for an emerging talent like him. Perhaps, a loan deal could do wonders for the club and the player.
One player who has caught eyes of several current and former players as well as rival team coaches is Papa Diawara.
The Senegalese international was brought on board amidst much fanfare at I-league club Mohun Bagan. The 31-year-old striker has showed his class and quality during the current I-League season. He has all the attributes of a great a striker. His close control is excellent, his technique is first class and he has a real eye for goal. He is also exceptional in the air.
Diawara, signed for Portuguese club Maritimo when he was just 19. Since then he has represented La Liga teams namely Sevilla, Levante and Getafe before returning to Maritimo and last turned out for A-League side Adelaide United before his move to India.
The signing of Diawara could prove to be a shrewd acquisition and a big boost for the club’s hopes of securing the playoffs in the upcoming season.
It remains to be seen in NorthEast United FC brings these two players on board to boost their attack.