Real Kashmir or the ISL? Atinder Mani yet to make up his mind

Atinder Mani Real Kashmir FC
Atinder Mani
The striker is tempted to stay back with Real Kashmir for the I-League but an ISL contract would be a bigger step forward next season...

Atinder Mani has stood by his desire to make it into an Indian Super League (ISL) side after Real Kashmir FC qualified for the 2018-19 I-League.

In an earlier interview, when the Kashmir-based side had qualified for the final round of the 2nd Division I-League, the forward had confessed, "It will be beneficial for me as a player and the club if we make it to the I-League. If I do good, hopefully, ISL or I-League teams notice me so that I can make the next step."

Talking to Goal after Real Kashmir were crowned champions of the second division, Mani reiterated, "Now that I am already in the I-League with my home club, I am trying to see if something happens for me at an ISL club. There are talks going on with a few clubs, but regardless, I will happily represent Real Kashmir in the I-League.

"At the moment, my aim is to grow with the team (Real Kashmir) but if anything works for me (to play in the ISL) I will look to consider the option," he added.

The Punjab-born, who scored and assisted four goals each, has meanwhile heaped praise on Real Kashmir's goalkeeper Sukhwinder Singh who happens to be the elder brother of India international Balwant Singh.

"I couldn't play the last two matches due to a minor back injury but I ended as the club's top scorer. The experience was good to remain unbeaten. We won eight and drew five matches," Mani continued.

GFX Atinder Mani Sukhwinder Singh Real Kashmir

"Our goalkeeper (Sukhwinder Singh) played 13 matches and he made so many crucial saves. He made a lot of efforts to keep us in the game. As important it is to have a good forward, it is to have a good goalkeeper also."

Come the I-League next season, Mani feels that his current side will need to opt for some reinforcements in order to compete in the first division.

"Our coach (David Robertson) is very experienced. He has played for some top teams too. Now that we are in the I-League, we have to sign some good players to compete against the likes of Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. The management is working on that along with the way the coach wants to play," said the former United Sikkim player.

"This was my fifth time in the (I-League) second division. I was at United Sikkim, Mohammedan Sporting, Hindustan FC and Lone Star (Kashmir) also," Mani recalled as he targets more laurels in his career.

"Just as Minerva (Punjab) have won the I-League, we will also like to do the same. Our aim will be to start winning matches and maintain a good position in the I-League," said the 28-year-old who turns 29 on June 11.