As far as Indian midfielders go, NorthEast United's Rowllin Borges is, without doubt, one of the best going around. The lanky Goan is an automatic choice in the middle of the park for club and country and it is not without reason.
Rowllin Borges has been a consistent performer for more than two seasons now and is one of the favourites of India national team coach Stephen Constantine. So much so that the 25-year-old Goan made his debut for the national team much before he landed his first Indian Super League (ISL) contract.
He was spotted by Constantine when he was playing for Sporting Club de Goa and was called up for the India squad for the 2015 SAFF Championship which India won. He was one of the shining lights for India in the tournament which they went on to win by beating Afghanistan in the final at Thiruvananthapuram.
What was evident from his outings in the tournament was that he had all the attributes of a modern-day enforcer - something which India wanted desperately. He has a good passing range and is tall and physical. But he has no aversion in going into tackles while breaking up play.
The 6 feet tall Borges also presents himself as an option during attacks as well, often arriving late in the box to capitalise on loose balls and clearances.
It was no wonder that NorthEast United FC, who signed him initially during the 2016 ISL season, retained him before the Player Draft began for the ongoing edition of the league.
But he had plenty of suitors ready to snap him up in case the Highlanders did not retain him. And given that FC Goa were signing local players predominantly from Goa, they missed out on the best Goan player in the country right now. In fact, Sergio Lobera would have loved to have Borges at his disposal given the frailties his team has shown in defence and midfield at times.
FC Goa have a sensational attack but have lost numerous games with their defence being shown up time again. Often, Ahmed Jahouh has lacked a solid presence alongside him to balance the highly creative attack-minded players in the team.
Also, a notable point is that very rarely have we seen the FC Goa players play a tough-tackling game. They have Pronay Halder, a physical midfielder, but Lobera has not used him extensively because Halder's passing is not exemplary and Lobera needs good movers of the ball in midfield.
This is where Borges would have come in handy for the Gaurs. His traits would have suited their needs but now they find him in the opposite camp and will need to plan for and neutralise his influence.
Borges, by his standards, has had a quiet ISL this season, partly due to an injury he suffered in pre-season. He was a bit off-colour when he returned but is now beginning to thrive under Avram Grant.
To his credit, Borges has also done well after he left Goa. He was efficient at East Bengal, on loan from NorthEast United, during the previous I-League season as well. Normally, we see very few Goan players succeed outside the state - the likes of Mahesh Gawli and Climax Lawrence being the exceptions. Alvito D'Cunha succeeded at the club level but was never a regular fixture in the national team.
Among the current crop, Mandar Rao Dessai (currently at FC Goa) had a forgettable stint at Bengaluru FC last season while Romeo Fernandes was a disappointment at East Bengal last time around and has not really set the stage alight in Delhi Dynamos, who are bottom of the league this year.
Rowllin Borges, in contrast, has stood out wherever he has played and will be one of Grant's key players as they plot to take down FC Goa once again. Unfortunately for Lobera, Borges will be with NorthEast for another season.