The Highlanders, under the tutelage of Eelco Schattorie, managed to play some eye-catching football before being beaten by eventual champions Bengaluru FC in the two-legged play-offs.
However, the Dutch coach opted to move to Kerala Blasters along with their topscorer Bartholomew Ogbeche. But the club moved on and roped in former Croatian international Robert Jarni as the new head coach for the upcoming season.
Robert Jarni is an illustrious name in the game, having played for the likes of Juventus and Real Madrid. He had won the FIFA World Youth Championship in 1987 with erstwhile Yugoslavia and was an important member of the Croatian side which finished third in the 1998 World Cup.
Jarni said, “I was working with the U19 and the U20 national teams of Croatia in the last two seasons. But that was national team duty and I wanted to spend more time with a team and not just training camps. That is one of the major reasons why I came to India and NorthEast United. I want to spend a whole season rather than just training camps.”
The Croatian mentioned that he followed the ISL season five and had also watched the matches of NorthEast United. “I watched a few games from last season including NorthEast United’s matches,” said the Highlanders’ boss.
Jarni has a challenge on his hands, given that the club are coming off their best ever season. On asked if he would be able to replicate last season’s performance, the experienced campaigner said, “Football is not mathematics. Our goal is to at least replicate or try to do better than what the team did last season. I will work hard and give my 100 per cent to achieve that.”
The former Croatian international stated that he used to love attacking football as a player but after he turned manager, he has learned to take a more pragmatic approach.
Jarni said, “As a player I used to love attacking football. But as a coach now I have to adapt to the players I have. We have just started working. Once we have the whole squad we will start to build and introduce my philosophy.”
The Highlanders have made quite a few changes in the squad this season. Two of their star players, Juan Mascia and Ogbeche, have left the club but they have signed two strikers Argentine Maximiliano Barreiro and Uruguayan Martin Chaves and a marquee name in Asamoah Gyan. They also have a very young Indian contingent.
On asked if Jarni satisfied with the squad he has on his hands and if he played a role in recruiting the overseas signings, he said, “The players in our squad are new players. They are young and promising players. They have a very good future ahead.
“The team lost a few players from last season, some foreign players. They bought new players again. I am constantly talking with the management about the players and together we decide which players fit better in the team. We are waiting for the whole squad to arrive in order to work. But I am happy with the young players as well as the foreign players.”