The Indian football transfer market is heating up as we approach closer and closer to the start of the new season, and consequently, Indian Super League (ISL) clubs have upped their game in recent weeks.
Transfers In The Pipeline:
# Kerala Blasters rope in former PL star; Mumbai City FC on the cusp of Boumous signing
Kerala Blasters are all set to replace outgoing attacker Bartholomew Ogbeche with former Norwich and Celtic forward Gary Hooper. As reported by us earlier, the Englishman is set for a move to the Tuskers on a one-year deal from A-League side Wellington Phoenix for whom he found the net 8 times and assisted 5 times last season. The experienced centre forward arrives in India with an impressive CV, with stints at Norwich in the Premier League and Sheffield Wednesday in the English Championship as well as a successful spell in Scotland with Glasgow Celtic. With Sandesh Jhingan and Ogbeche’s big name departures all but confirmed, the onus lies on Hooper, Sahal Abdul Samad, Facundo Pereyra and the likes to lead the Blasters’ title challenge.
City Football Group (CFG) owned Mumbai City FC look all set for a promising 2020-21 ISL campaign with the acquisition of French-Moroccan attacking midfielder Hugo Boumous from FC Goa. The 25-year-old had a stellar ISL campaign last time around with 10 goals and 11 assists to his name, and was crowned the Hero of the Season. The deal, which sources say is close to completion, would see the Islanders pay Goa a reported fee of ₹1.6 crore, believed to be the player’s release clause and would reunite him with manager Sergio Lobera, under whom he has played for FC Goa as well as Moroccan club Moghreb Tetouan. Should the deal go through, it would make the Mumbai City attacking lineup one of the best in the league with the franchise having already sealed a deal for Adam Le Fondre and Bartholomew Ogbeche to improve their goal scoring prowess.
# ATK Mohun Bagan look to steady the ship; Odisha FC seals impressive foreign signings
Newly merged entity ATK Mohun Bagan FC have secured the signing of defender Jose Luis Espinosa Arroyo ‘Tiri’ for the upcoming ISL season. After a summer of speculation, the club announced the arrival of the centre back, who had previously played for ATK in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, on Saturday. The 29-year-old Spaniard who has also played for Jamshedpur FC in the ISL is set to be a starter in a new look defensive setup. Manager Antonio Lopez Habas is already familiar with the player’s strengths having previously worked with him at ATK four years back and would be counting on him to make a substantial contribution in the upcoming season.
Bienvenido, @Tiri1991!! ✨
— ATK Mohun Bagan FC (@atkmohunbaganfc) September 12, 2020
Odisha FC seem to have found their mojo with the announcement of foreign recruits at either end of the pitch. The club has formalized the signing of Aussie centre back Jacob Tratt, formerly of the A-League side Perth Glory, and extended the stay of star striker from last season Manuel Onwu, both one-year contracts. 26-year-old Tratt, who can also play as a right-sided full back, has had an impressive few years downunder, having represented five different teams in the A-League. Calm, composed and good-on-the-ball, the defender is likely to play an important role in manager Stuart Baxer’s plans for the upcoming season.
Onwu, who had joined Odisha on loan from Bengaluru last season, enjoyed a stellar campaign and was the team’s most obvious threat in front of goal. His signing will provide fans with much needed optimism ahead of the new campaign as the team looks to improve upon their 6th position finish last season. Odisha are also close to roping in former Wellington Phoenix captain Steven Taylor, it has been learnt.
# Jamshedpur FC and Chennaiyin FC look to strengthen their squads; Jeje bids adieu
The Red Miners, who finished 8th in the ISL last season have officially announced the arrival of home grown talents in the form of forward William Lalnunfela and young winger Bhupender Singh, both of whom have put pen to paper on 3-year deals. 25-year-old William arrives with prior experience in the I-League for Aizawl FC as well as Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan, and will look to bolster an attacking line up that managed an underwhelming 22 goals in 18 matches last season at just 1.22 goals per 90 minutes.
Bhupender, who turned 19 this year, joins the side on the back of a successful stint with Sudeva FC’s youth teams and impressive campaigns for the Spanish Tercera Division’s U19 team Olimpic Xativa. Joining them at the club will be experienced goalkeeper TP Rehenesh who will look to compete for the starting berth alongside the talented Niraj Kumar. The I-League and ISL veteran who will wear number 32, joins from Kerala Blasters and will provide much needed experience to a defensive unit that shipped 35 goals last term, second-worst in the league.
Manager Owen Coyle has also roped in imposing Nigerian centre back Stephen Eze as the team’s 6th foreign player and second foreign centre-back alongside Peter Hartley. The 26-year-old joins Jamshedpur FC from Bulgarian side Lokomotiv Plovidiv with whom he finished second in the Bulgarian top division last season. He has also represented Nigeria on 13 occasions, having featured in all of their six games in the 2018 African Nations Championship.
Finalists from last season, Chennaiyin FC have looked to address the defensive balance of the side with the addition of defenders Reagan Singh and Lalchhuanmawia Fanai. Right back Reagan started off with a stint at Royal Wahingdoh in the I-League in 2012 before moving on to NorthEast United three years later where he raked up 69 appearances over 5 seasons apart from a short loan spell for Mumbai FC in 2016-17. Towering left back Fanai is likewise an experienced campaigner having previously represented Shillong Lajong, Bengaluru FC and Pune City, and has also represented India in the 2015 SAFF Championship victory.
The full back duo, who have lined up against each other on multiple occasions during their time in the north east will now be expected to provide Csaba Laszlo’s side much needed defensive cover as they look to go one step further in the upcoming campaign. Their arrival is also set to offset the departure of fan favourite Jeje Lalpekhlua and retain some of the north eastern flair within the squad. The 29-year-old, who missed the entirety of the 2019-20 season due to a knee injury announced this week that he would be leaving the two time champions amid rumours of strong interest from East Bengal. The forward who is fit again and raring to go, is reportedly in talks with the Kolkata giants over a possible new deal with the club having secured new ownership and potentially a fresh start in the ISL.
# North East United’s African sojourn; Hyderabad FC on the front foot and Mumbai City FC’s ruthless transfer market approach
According to reports, North East United are in line to rope in French-Mauritania international Khassa Camara as their first foreign signing on a long-term deal. The versatile midfielder, who has represented Mauritania at the African Cup of Nations, is still only 27 and can play multiple positions in the centre of the park as well as at right back. His energy in the engine room will be a valuable asset for new head coach Gerard Nus who will be looking forward to use his ball retrieving abilities to spark counter attacks in an attempt to better the 9th placed finish that they managed last season.
Hyderabad FC are getting closer to the signing of Spanish centre forward Francisco Sandanza, as reported by The Bridge earlier. The former Valencia prospect has had spells in the UK with Dundee United, Brighton and Hove Albion, St. Johnstone and Glasgow Rangers and is currently leading the line for LaLiga 2 outfit AD Alcorcón. The move for the 35-year-old can be a vital one for Hyderabad in securing a strong core of foreign players. It can also help in bringing out the best from the team’s Indian attacking contingent and lift the morale around the club after the sudden departure of Albert Roca who is going to line up alongside Ronald Koeman’s coaching staff at Barcelona next season.
Mumbai City FC have probably been one of the most proactive teams in terms of transfer activity this term, having already sealed deals for Ogbeche, Mourtada Fall, Mandar Rao, Tondonba Singh and Ahmed Jahouh, as well as a reported offer for Hugo Boumous. However, they are showing no signs of stopping and have now strained their eyes on Sporting Gijon midfielder Hernan Santana. The Bridge understands that a deal is now close to be agreed with the Islanders keen on bringing the 30-year-old to the ISL in a bid to challenge for the title.