ISL 2017: 'Marcelinho who?' - Name and Fame does not matter, it's all about the game

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More often than not, it's been the relatively unknown foreign players who have succeeded in the Indian Super League over the years...


GOAL BY NISANTH V EASWAR    Follow @Niktheblue94 on Twitter


 

'Who is Marcelinho?'

A question that was asked when Indian Super League (ISL) club Delhi Dynamos signed the Brazilian striker from Anapolis FC in 2016. Marcelo Leite Pereira started his professional career with the reserve team of Spanish club Atletico Madrid and spent the majority of the rest of his career with clubs which are relatively unknown to a commoner.

Marcelinho, as the Brazilian is more commonly known, went on to win the Golden Boot in his debut season in the Indian Super League, notching 10 goals and 5 assists along Delhi Dynamos' journey to the semi-final. From an unknown to ISL superstar, the player's change in stature was quite unexpected.

Be it former English Championship striker Iain Hume who is now the tournament's leading goalscorer or Stiven Mendoza who shred opposition defences to pieces for Chennai, more such examples are aplenty in Indian Super League. It's high time that people drop the built-up hype around superstars past their prime and give more attention to the so-called 'unknowns'.

ISL 2017

But again, the reason for such superhits every season could very well be due to the lack of pressure on them to perform. It is a common idiosyncrasy that nothing great is expected of such players immediately upon their arrival. Think of Cesar Azpilicueta's career at Chelsea FC for comparison.

The right-back was signed from Marseille for an initial fee of £6.5m five years ago and had to settle for a place on the bench initially. He is now one of the best defenders in the Premier League. The pressure of transfer fees and expectations on footballers have been crucial factors in determining their on-field outputs and it is the same in India as well.

When there is an opportunity to bring in a player like Dimitar Berbatov, it should be grabbed with both hands. But in the long run, the performances of Courage Pekuson, Lakic-Pesic and Mark Sifneos could make the difference for the Kerala-based team who have lost the final twice in three years. A bit like how Colombian Stiven Mendoza helped Chennaiyin FC to the trophy in 2015, managing to score an incredible 13 goals in 16 appearances during the title-winning run.

Stiven Mendoza Atletico de Kolkata Chennaiyin FC ISL season 2

After all, how many world famous footballers took ISL by storm? The answer would be, very few. It's been the lesser known footballers who've contributed much more to the success of ISL clubs since their inception.

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Marcelinho and Iain Hume weren't the popular stars they are now when they made the switch to India a few years ago. They adapted to the country, settled in at their clubs and delivered on the field. As we move towards the fourth season of ISL, a whole new set of 'unknown' players have put pen to paper with the ten contestants. Regardless of the number of superstars in each team, it could come down to the performances of these 'unknowns' to mount a serious title challenge.

Former 'unknowns' Marcelinho, Iain Hume and Lucian Goian are once again gearing up for the new season of ISL but the expectations on their shoulders are twofold. Iain Hume will partner Dimitar Berbatov and CK Vineeth in a revamped Kerala Blasters' attack. Marcelinho is all set to don FC Pune City's colours for the upcoming season in a bid to help them reach knockout rounds for the first time in the history of the competition. Lucian Goian will continue to be a stronghold at the back for Mumbai City, where he has acted as the commander-in-chief throughout the team's journey to the semi-final last season.

The fourth season of ISL is sure to provide us with plenty of mouth-watering action, goals and emerging stars. Who knows, by the end of the season next year in March, we could be talking about a whole new set of superstars. If you're game, name and fame will follow. 

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