After excelling at Delhi Dynamos last season, Gianni Zuiverloon wanted a change of scenery. He had started 17 matches for the Lions and not only did he stabilise their defence (and midfield at times), he even chipped in with a couple of goals at the other end to make life interesting for the Delhi faithful.
The centre-back, who is set to play under fellow Dutchman Eelco Schattorie, spent most of his formative years in the Eredivisie. He played for Feyenoord, RKC Waalwijk and Heerenveen before making a switch to the Premier League side West Brom in 2008 and then later, to La Liga side Mallorca. He joined Delhi ahead of the 2018-19 Indian Super League (ISL) season and seamlessly slotted into their first team.
Dynamos tried their best to make him stay. They gave him an offer he would, in normal circumstances, have had difficulty refusing. But the 32-year-old defender didn't want to live in the country's capital. After deciding that Delhi wasn't the right city for him to live in, Kerala Blasters' offer caught the defender's eye.
"I had a wonderful season with the Delhi Dynamos but the city wasn’t right for me," Gianni Zuiverloon told Goal. "Last season was quite a challenge, especially at the start, since the club had initiated a new project with a lot of young players. The coaching style was also very new and different.
"Towards the end, the techniques and ideas did come together and as a team, we started performing well on the field. However, it was too late for a good come-back."
Both Delhi Dynamos and Kerala Blasters had disappointing outings last season. Delhi finished eighth on the table with 18 points. That is a spot and three points better than what Blasters achieved. But the defender had other factors to consider as well.
"The passion that Kerala has for football is beyond measure and it is also a club with the biggest fanbase in India. The stadium is much fuller and it is a dream of every footballer to play in front of such a passionate crowd," Zuiverloon began.
"Kerala is also a very beautiful state which looks very much like my home country Surinam. More importantly, the club has well-defined goals for the upcoming season. I’m also very happy to have an opportunity to work with a Dutch head coach (Eelco Schattorie) since it will be very easy for me to communicate and train better," he said.
Not only will Zuiverloon get to play under the tutelage of his compatriot but he will also be working alongside Nigerian striker and former PSG man Bartholomew Ogbeche, who the defender knows from his time in the Dutch league.
"The new team at KBFC looks very promising and I look forward to playing with every one of them. I have known Ogbeche for a while now, from the Dutch league, so playing with him will be fun!"
Zuiverloon will strengthen the Blasters defence that featured Sandesh Jhingan and Anas Edathodika last season. Anas has left Blasters to join ATK, making Zuiverloon the automatic pick to partner Jhingan at the start of the season.
He made the most number of tackles (40) and interceptions (36) for the Lions last season and also conceded the most fouls (24). With new teammates and a different project involved, Zuiverloon will want to make an impact from the get-go.