It took only a few years for Arjun Jayaraj to make a name for himself in Kerala's football scene. The MSP product, who caught the eye of Bino George, impressed for I-League club Gokulam Kerala and has now put pen to paper to sign for Indian Super League club Kerala Blasters.
After an impressive I-League debut in 2017, Arjun was faced with a choice. He had multiple offers to leave the Malabarians but the Malappuram-born 23-year-old decided to stay at his club.
However, after one more season of I-League under his belt and a total of 30 league appearances in two seasons, the youngster decided that it is time to move to newer things. It was simply hard to resist an offer from Kerala Blasters - not only could he play for the Kerala-based team, he could try out a new challenge.
"I had been playing at Gokulam Kerala for three years. I received many offers last year as well but I decided to continue at Gokulam," Arjun Jayaraj told Goal . "This time around, when Blasters came up with an offer, I accepted it because they are Kerala-based team and their fans were also a factor behind my move.
"Also, it is everyone's wish to play in the ISL and if that's with a team from your home state, so much more happy to do it."
And, of course, what makes the idea of playing for Kerala Blasters attractive is the support the club enjoys. Although attendance figures have been dwindling in the last two years, the regular stadium-goers Manjappada offers plenty of support for the players on the field.
"Fans are an important factor in sports. Manjappada is a huge fan group. To have their support is great for any footballer. I was welcomed very well by the club management and the fans, I have been getting a lot of messages on social media."
Blasters have also been building a larger pool of Kerala-born players this season, with Rahul KP, Shibinraj Kunniyil, Jithin MS, Abdul Hakku, Prasanth Karuthadathkuni, TP Rehenesh, Zayed bin Waleed all set to play a part at the club. For someone who argued that Malayali players need to get more opportunities, Arjun Jayaraj is particularly pleased with the growing list of Kerala-born players at his new club.
"There are a lot of Malayalis in the team this season and all of them are people I already know. I'm happy to get a chance to play and train with them. In my opinion, if more local players are playing, the team gets more local support. "
Being a midfielder, there ought to be comparisons with Sahal Abdul Samad who is already a fan favourite at Blasters. Arjun is looking forward to teaming up with the youngster.
"Sahal is my friend, I know him and we have played together in a game (friendly) in the past. He is a very good midfielder. If we get a chance to play together at Blasters, I'm hopeful of creating a good partnership on the field with him. Even if we don't play together, whoever plays should help the team win. That's what I want," Arjun concluded.
The new-look Kerala Blasters are likely to start their pre-season preparations later this month, with a few friendlies in Sharjah part of their plans to get the team ready for the new season.