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Who could take home AIFF's Emerging Player of the Year award?

9:49 AM IST 22/03/20
Sumit Rathi ATK
Goal takes a detailed look at the six Emerging Player Award nominees...

  • Anirudh Thapa v Mumbai City FC

    Anirudh Thapa (Chennaiyin FC)

    The 22-year-old midfielder was one of the first names on the team sheet of manager Owen Coyle. He did not miss a single game and raked up 1754 minutes in the recently concluded edition of the Indian Super League (ISL). He started to bloom under Coyle and after an impressive shift against Jamshedpur FC, the Irish tactician went on to say, "The better he plays, the better we play. I’ve not seen a better Indian midfielder in the league, having looked at the league." 

    But his performance against FC Goa in the first leg of the semi-finals can be arguably called his best shift in ISL 2019-20. Chennaiyin routed FC Goa 4-1 and it was his performance in the middle of the park that laid the foundation for such an emphatic win. Thapa was dictating the tempo of the match with his wide range of passing skills. He was linking up with his forwards to perfection which beat Goa in their own game. 

    The former Punjab FC player also found the back of the net with a piledriver and later engineered a move which culminated in Chennaiyin's fourth goal. 

    The Marina Machans tuned their fortunes under Coyle and Thapa happens to be one of the key architects behind the revival. His composure around the centre circle allowed them to win the midfield battle, more often than not, which in turn provided the license and scope for the likes of Rafael Crivellaro to roam forward.

  • Sk. Sahil Mohun Bagan

    Sk Sahil

    Sk Sahil is a product of the Mohun Bagan academy and since the arrival of Kibu Vicuna, the youngster has become a household name in West Bengal. He used to play as a central defender but the Spanish coach tweaked his position and deployed him as a central defensive midfielder which worked wonders for him. 

    His fitness has been incredible. He played in the Durand Cup, the Calcutta Football League, the Sheikh Kamal Cup and in the I-League, but his intensity did not drop even in the business end of the season. 

    Playing alongside an experienced campaigner in Fran Gonzalez has also made matters easier for him. The Spaniard guided him in tough moments which has helped maintain his composure against the tougher sides. 

    He has the ability to snatch the ball and win back possession which made him a perfect partner for Gonzalez in midfield. He executes his tackles well enough and if he can work on his ball distribution, then he can fit the profile of a perfect central midfielder. 

  • Sumit Rathi ATK

    Sumit Rathi (ATK)

    The Chandigarh Football Academy (CFA) product was promoted to the ATK senior team after Antonio Habas was impressed by the youngster in pre-season. Unsurprisingly, in a star-studded squad, he was not the first-choice at the start of the campaign. Against Odisha FC, he was brought on as a half-time substitute and there has been no looking back ever since. 

    As a left sided centre-back, he has grown in stature as the league progressed. He is a no-nonsense defender and likes to clear his lines. Credit must be given to him as Antonio Habas prefers to go with a three-man backline which further eliminates room for error for a central defender. 

    In spite of that, he remains disciplined, times his tackles well, and the fact that he had just two cautions to his name is a testimony to it. 

    Rathi has already won ISL's Emerging Player Award and his coach thinks that he can be an invaluable asset to Indian football in the near future. 

    “Sumit is a fantastic player, one for the future. He has a good physique and everyday he is improving both technically and tactically. I have confidence in him and he can be a very important player for India,” stated Habas. 

  • Vikram Pratap Singh Indian Arrows NEROCA FC I-League 2019-20

    Vikram Pratap Singh (Indian Arrows)

    The India U19 skipper continues to take massive strides as a player. He has been the best player of the Indian Arrows team in this season and with four goals to his name he is amongst the top Indian scorers in I-League. It was his last gasp goal against East Bengal that defeated the Kolkata giants. 

    Vikram has not only scored goals but has played an instrumental part in creating attacks for the Arrows team. His partnership with Rohit Danu started to flourish in the last few games. 

    He has pace, can carry the ball forward under pressure and is a livewire in attack. He is one of the brightest prodigies of India and if nurtured well, can turn out to be a gem. 

  • Lalengmawia NorthEast United Kerala Blasters ISL 6

    Lalengmawia (NorthEast United)

    The 19-year-old has been one of the most consistent performers in ISL. While some doubted his credentials because of his unimpressive physical attributes, he has proved his critics wrong. His accurate passing makes him one of the most promising midfielders in India. Apart from his ball distribution skills, he also has the natural ability to break opposition attacks. 

    Mawia has made 24 interceptions and 15 blocks from 10 games which speaks volume about his defensive contribution. His coach Robert Jarni heaped praise on him and even went on to call him as the best player in NorthEast. 

    “At the start, when we watched him at the training sessions and at one moment, we saw he has qualities to play in the first team. At this moment he is our best player. He is only 19 years old. I already told Igor Stimac that Mawia is among the top three midfielders in India," stated the Croatian. 

  • Shubham Sarangi Delhi Dynamos

    Shubham Sarangi (Odisha FC)

    The 19-year-old started his career as a striker before Josep Gombau turned him into a midfielder last season. However, Gombau decided to use him as a right back since the start of this season. And Sarangi has not disappointed on most occassions. 

    He has shown incredible work rate and apart from performing his defensive duties, he galloped forward to provide support in the attacking third as well. After Manuel Onwu joined Odisha he found a target man to deliver his crosses which further made him effective. 

    The local lad also has the pace to burn and therefore, has an advantage when he is up against the opposition wingers. But, Sarangi has got major room for improvement as far as his tackling is concerned. He committed 45 fouls and picked up five yellow cards which show that the defender must work on this aspect of his play.  

    But then again, this was his first season as a defender and is still learning the tricks of the trade.