Indian Super League: Repercussions of ISL draft will be felt in the coming years

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Ajith Namboothiri

It’s fair to state that a lot of thought went into drafting the rules for the upcoming edition of the Indian Super League (ISL). Clubs also gave their suggestions and it was decided that each team could retain up to two senior players and if one of the retained Under-21 players had an international cap, he would be considered as a senior player too.

The idea was to have a draft system so that almost every team starts on a level playing field. What it also ensures is that none of the teams get all the players they wanted or had targeted. As much as every coach and official would claim that they got all the players they went into the draft for, in almost every case, they would have missed out on at least three-to-four players on an average.

Now every ISL franchise is offering long term contracts in order to ensure that the best, according to their technical discretion, are retained for the next two years at least.

Delhi Dynamos have offered a two-year deal to Pritam Kotal, who would become the highest paid right back in the country. They are also believed to be keen on retaining former DSK Shivajians right-back Sajid Dhot. Mumbai City FC have signed a multi-year deal with Sehnaj Singh, although the Punjab-born midfielder wasn’t picked in the draft.

Kerala Blasters too are expected to start conversations. FC Goa are believed to have signed multi-year contracts with Pronay Halder, Brandon Fernandes and a few more along with Manvir Singh. Bengaluru FC have Sunil Chhetri, Udanta Singh, Nishu Kumar, Daniel Lalhimpuia on longer contracts. Do not be surprised if, during the course of the season, they announce retention of several more players.

Chennaiyin FC have been the smartest of the lot as they are close to signing long term deals with some of the best young talent in the country in Anirudh Thapa, Jerry Lalrinzuala and Germanpreet Singh. ATK have Debjit Majumder and Prabir Das on long term deals and would take a call on whom to offer a longer deal after the pre-season.

Jerry Lalrinzuala Chennaiyin FC NorthEast United FC ISL season 3 2016 Anirudh Thapa Minerva Punjab FC Mumbai FC I-League 2017

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What this highlights is that if the technical staff of a particular franchise picked the wrong set of players, they would certainly miss out on the best talent for the next two-to-three seasons. The said ISL franchise wouldn’t then be able to rope in by making amends the following year given that the best of the lot have been retained.

One may question that an open market would have resulted in a price war and not often would the players a club targets would end up on their roster. However, the chances of landing a player in an open market or his back-up are higher than in the draft. Besides, the ISL draft hasn’t per say kept the price in check. The reason being the likes of Mohun Bagan and East Bengal would offer the said player a massive opportunity or the agent would claim that the said player had a massive offer from xyz club which would see his rate go up.

The ISL draft’s effect would be there for all to see in the next two-to-three years. If you have picked the wrong set and haven’t yet retained the best you have, there is a good chance you may have to fill your roster with average players for the next year. So much for planning…