I-League 2018-19: Is Mohun Bagan's gamble with Sony Norde worth the risk?

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Fan heartthrob Sony Norde will once don the iconic maroon and green jersey. Will the gamble pay-off?

On January 22, Sony Norde bid farewell to Mohun Bagan in tears but promised that he will be back to ply his trade for the century-old club once he recovers his fitness. On October 11, it was announced that the Haitian will indeed join Mohun Bagan before the upcoming I-League season, albeit after going through a medical and fitness test. 

It is one of the worst-kept secrets that Mohun Bagan has gone the extra mile to sign a fan favourite in Norde. Bagan's announcement of roping in Egyptian attacking midfielder Omar El Hussieny was immediately followed by a social media post by Norde where he claimed that the lackadaisical attitude of the officials will force him to take up other offers on the table. But soon, the post was deleted and within a day or two, it was announced that Norde will make a comeback in maroon and green colours. 

It is well known that Norde is the favourite of millions of Mohun Bagan fans as the team have never lost a match against East Bengal with him on the ground. With club elections knocking on the door, bringing Norde in could have been a political decision. 

Does it make footballing sense?

The Haitian has been training for the past two months after getting operated on his right knee in February. Seldom a day has passed without Norde not uploading a glimpse of his fitness regime on social media. Although he has agreed to appear for a fitness and medical test, it is common wisdom that a player who has last appeared for a competitive match almost 10 months ago will take at least a few matches to get his rhythm back. 

If reports are to be believed, then Norde has applied for his visa and he is set to land in Kolkata just days before Bagan's league opener against Gokulam Kerala on October 27. This means that he will miss the four friendlies that Mohun Bagan are set to play in the run-up to their first competitive fixture which will not have time to gel with his team-mates.

Sony Norde Mohun Bagan I-League 2017/2018

One can argue that Norde has been with the team for the past four years but it must also be noted that most of the players with him he had played have jumped ship. Barring Yuta Kinowaki and Aser Dipanda, most of Bagan's personnel in midfield and attack have changed. Although Pintu Mahata and Sourav Das have been a part of the squad during Norde's earlier stints, they had remained on the fringes. 

During the Calcutta Football League (CFL) 2018, Dipanda joined the club late and Chakraborty took his time before starting Dipanda up front. But can Bagan afford the same luxury with Norde as well given that the competitors are tougher are more well-drilled in the I-League? Wouldn't it have been less risky to scout a fully-fit foreigner? The answer is up in the air. 

There is no denying that a player of Norde's class and calibre is an asset to any team in India. He has the capability to turn the tables single-handedly in favour of his side. The hysteria around Norde is so high amongst the fans that some of them have already started romanticizing their 'magician' celebrating in his trademark sten gun style after scoring against East Bengal.

Can Norde deliver the goods and live up to the expectations of the supporters and team management? For now, let's wait and watch.

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