NorthEast United FC stuck to their policy of promoting local young talents as the Highlanders roped in as many as nine North-East India born players in the 2017 Indian Super League (ISL) domestic player draft on Sunday.
The standout inclusion will have to be that of the versatile Lalrindika Ralte, who is extremely reliable in midfield apart from possessing superb vision, brought in for ₹50 Lakhs, making him their third highest-earning player behind the already retained Rehenesh TP and Rowllin Borges.
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It was Kokrajhar-born Halicharan Narzary who returned back to his hometown club in no time as the John Abraham owned side were quick to recall him back at the first time of asking.
The likes of Nirmal Chettri, Reagan Singh and Lalrempuia Fanai also made a comeback to the Guwahati-based outfit. Striker Seiminlen Doungel too returned, costing ₹37.5 Lakhs for a second stint, havin earlier plied his trade at the club during the inaugural season.
Robert Lalthlamuana, Malengnamba Meitei and Sushil Meitei were the other North-Eastern players, the latter two arriving from 2nd Division I-League champions NEROCA FC, with whom NorthEast United formed a 5-year strategic alliance earlier this week.
Ravi Kumar and Gurpreet Singh were chosen as back-ups to numero uno Rehenesh TP. However, the Whites from Guwahati will have to part ways with a sum of ₹15 Lakhs as transfer fees towards Minerva Punjab FC for Ravi Kumar.
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Bengaluru FC's Gursimrat Singh Gill and Kerala-born Abdul Hakku were also fancied by the Highlanders. Spending the least amount of money in Sunday's draft, NorthEast United total salary expenses do not exceed ₹3 Crores (excluding transfer fees and retained players' salaries).
Along with FC Pune City, NorthEast United remain the only two clubs never to have reached the play-offs of the ISL in its three seasons of existence. With new head coach Joao De Deus on board, the club aims to emulate great success with the already-acquired bunch of domestic players with the help of strong foreign acquisitions.