One of them is the emergence of young Nandhakumar Sekar who has featured heavily in the plans of Miguel Angel Portugal of late.
The 22-year-old was in headlines earlier this week after his loan deal from parent club Chennai City FC was made permanent by the Dynamos. While the value of the deal has not been disclosed officially, it is believed to be 23 lakh rupees, making his transfer fee the highest between two Indian clubs.
Only Lester Fernandez’s move to United SC from FC Pune in 2012 compares in monetary terms, with the deal being worth 20 lakhs. However in Lester’s case, United SC paid the player the amount to buy out his contract with Pune.
Son of a bus conductor, the youngster was plying his trade in the Chennai Senior Division League in his hometown in 2016 where he caught the eye of his former club. He got his first taste of the I-League last season and he made it count with two goals in six appearances to earn a loan move to the Dynamos.
“The experience has been really good. Delhi Dynamos is very a professional club. The facilities and equipments are more in Delhi as compared to Chennai City FC. I am enjoying my stay here and the coaches have helped me improve a lot over these few months,” he says when asked about the difference between the two clubs.
Having made five appearances already for the ISL outfit and established himself in the starting XI, Nandhakumar’s progress and development have even caught him by surprise.
“This is my first year in the ISL. Honestly, I did not expect to start in the main XI this season. But I am happy that the coach has trusted me and I want to keep giving my best,” he states.
It is no secret that coach Miguel Angel Portugal has taken a liking to the Chennai youngster. When asked by Goal as to which Indian players had caught his eye in the league this season, the Spaniard had said “There are a few but to mention some – Udanta (Singh), Dheeraj Singh, Vinit (Rai), (Lallianzuala) Chhangte and Nandha (Nandhakumar) have a big potential to improve and go to a bigger league."
The feeling, it seems, is mutual with Nandhakumar crediting all his good work this season to the former Real Madrid B team coach.
"The coach is one of the best I have worked with. He always motivates me even if I don’t perform well. He really is the person because of whom I have been able to give a good performance this season,” he states.
Nandhakumar’s versatility has seen him deployed at both left-back and left-wing in Delhi’s matches this season. He played a prominent role in the side’s victory over league-leaders Bengaluru FC, the win being only their second of an otherwise abysmal campaign.
Despite their league position, confidence is bursting through the winger’s veins as he hopes for a strong finish from his side.
“The mood in the dressing room is upbeat after the last win. We are playing really well and we have had a lot of possession. We have been unlucky at times with the result but I am confident that we will keep improving. The coach is always there to motivate us both in training and in the dressing room,” he says.
Having made his debut for the India U-23 side last year, there is only one goal in the mind of the Dynamos man. With a clear and focused head, his intentions for the long term are clear when he says, “My future aim is to play for senior India team."
His rapid rise from the local leagues of Chennai to playing in the ISL, all within a span of two years, make Nandhakumar a prospect worth keeping an eye on for followers of Indian football.