Sandesh Jhingan's addition further strengthens an ATK Mohun Bagan side that looked well-drilled and oozed talent in every department in the previous edition of the Indian Super League (ISL). The centre-back bolsters an ATK defence which had been weakened by the exit of Augustin Iniguez Garcia who had announced his retirement from football after the last campaign.
The former Kerala Blasters defender is expected to join Pritam Kotal and Spaniard Tiri in a three-man backline, which is normally preferred by coach Antonio Habas.
Goal had revealed earlier that Jhingan was in final discussions with ATK Mohun Bagan and has since signed on the dotted lines.
ATK boasted the second-best defensive record (16 goals conceded) in the last season and with the inclusion of Jhingan and Tiri, the backline has been further strengthened.
The availability of Jhingan will come in handy, especially from the 2021-22 season when the number of foreigners on the pitch in ISL will be reduced to a maximum of four, including a player from an AFC member association.
It will not be surprising if Habas chooses to field an all-Indian backline with promising youngster Sumit Rathi slotting in alongside Jhingan and Kotal, with Prabir Das and Subhasish Bose deployed as the wing-backs. It is certainly a luxury not many teams can afford without compromising on quality.
In defence, they have quality Indian players in Prabir Das, Pritam Kotal, Subhasish Bose, Sumit Rathi and now Jhingan. While in midfield, the likes of Jayesh Rane, Pronay Halder, Michael Regin are all dependable options for Habas.
The same goes in the wide and forward areas too. With the likes of Jobby Justin, Michael Soosairaj and Manvir Singh at his disposal, Habas has the option of fielding different combinations easily. He can also make the best use of his foreign players, given the quality of Indian players around them.
Jhingan's signing is yet another step in that vision of having the best possible Indian players in the squad for ATK.
The deal also ensures continental competition for Jhingan who has not been shy of expressing his desire to play for a foreign outfit. The Green and Maroons will participate in the AFC Cup 2021 which will allow Jhingan to present himself in front of an international audience, giving him a chanceto play against tougher opponents.
Moreover, principal owner Sanjeev Goenka has not minced words while explaining the long term vision of the club i.e. to play and compete in the AFC Champions League.
"I think we have to build ourselves, our competencies, our strengths, and capabilities to an extent where we can participate in international competitions. And my target is the AFC Champions League. We have to prepare for that and at some stage, we have to play in it," commented the businessman after forming the new entity ATK Mohun Bagan.
It is an ambitious sporting project which perfectly fits the soaring aspirations of Jhingan who is yet to win a league title in his career. He did reach the finals of the ISL twice with Kerala Blasters but could not win the silverware. He will be looking to turn that record around.
Although Jhingan's credentials as a player remain unquestionable, it must also be noted that he will be coming back after a lengthy injury layoff which has forced him on the sidelines for the entire 2019-20 season. The defender has already made his way back onto the training grounds and now it remains to be seen whether he can live up to the expectations of an ever-demanding Kolkata crowd.