When the halfway point of last year's Indian Super League season approached, NorthEast United were sitting pretty in the right half of the table and their Uruguayan striker Emiliano Alfaro was the hottest striker in the league.
He had scored five goals in his first seven appearances for the Highlanders and looked set to propel them into the semifinals for the first time ever. However, his form waned so did NorthEast's fortunes as they ultimately missed out on qualifying to the knockout stages.
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Still, Alfaro remained an in'demand player and there were no surprises when he was quickly snapped up by FC Pune City, who are also bidding to reach the semifinals of the ISL for the first time ever. He had offers from several clubs, Alfaro revealed to Goal, but he felt Antonio Habas' team offered him the best deal.
"I feel happy to be joining FC Pune City. I was impressed with the city and the people even last season when we came to play here and the experience was brilliant. Then the coach (Antonio Habas) called me and the management was very nice. We will have a good team and I'm happy," he said.
"Of course, I received offers from other clubs but finally I decided to sign with Pune because they gave me the best offer," he added.
The 29-year-old, who says he jumped at the chance to work with Antonio Habas, had this to say about his new coach - "He is a very good coach and knows the league very well. I think he knows it better than most other coaches.
"He's preparing for the next season with most dedication. With his experience, it's more easy to build a competitive team for next season."
The ISL is set for a revamp with more teams and longer duration, which is all to the liking of Alfaro. The Uruguayan is also not concerned about the fact that there will only be five foreigners in the starting eleven from this season, as opposed to six last season.
"The changes in the ISL are for the better and if you want to be more competitive, then you should adapt. As it is with most top leagues, the season should be long and next year it will be longer and it is only for the good. It is good for the football in India and the Indian players."
"I don't think the reduction in foreigners starting is a big problem. Many teams would be having less players in their squad. It won't be a big problem at all," he added.
After the disappointing end to last ISL season, Alfaro signed up for UAE Division One (second tier league) side Al Fujairah SC where he enjoyed a healthy scoring record. Interestingly, Al Fujairah have now roped in Diego Maradona as their new coach for the coming season but Alfaro has no regrets on missing out on playing under the Argentine great.
The Uruguayan hitman gave ISL some brownie points while comparing it with UAE Divison one. "In UAE, the level of the local players are good and the teams are good," he elaborated.
"But you have only 3 foreign players in one team. So, the level can be a little bit down. Also, there are not many fans coming to watch the games. Here in India, the stadiums are full at many places," he added.
Before he signed out, Alfaro laid down the targets for the coming season, insisting that only the ultimate prize was on their minds. "Our target is to win the league. To do that you have to work hard and need to show team work.
We need to start from the beginning. Everybody wants to win the final. It is going to be difficult and but we wil try to win the league," he asserted strongly.
FC Pune City certainly have a coach who is a proven customer when it comes to winning the ISL but now they will hope that Alfaro keeps firing on all cylinders throughout the season.