As the seasons have passed by in the Indian Super League (ISL), the movement of overseas players between clubs in the league has gradually increased.
Many franchises are now choosing to rely on signing proven overseas performers in the league rather than looking outward for fresh faces. The trend has not just been limited to the foreign players but also the head coaches.
The run-up to the 2018-19 edition saw several overseas players jumping ship to a different club in the ISL itself with Spain’s Manuel Lanzarote being the prime example. The prolific playmaker was sensational for FC Goa in the last edition, bagging 13 goals and six assists in his side’s run to the playoffs.
However, differences between the player and the club saw Lanzarote sign for ATK in the summer, joining Steve Coppell’s revolution at the Kolkata team. The Spaniard was not the only overseas player with previous ISL experience signed by ATK in the transfer window.
Going for almost a complete overhaul of their squad, ATK signed as many as six proven overseas performers from other ISL teams. Kalu Uche arrived after a high-scoring season with Delhi Dynamos while the experienced defender John Johnson arrived from Bengaluru. Gerson Vieira and Everton Santos were signed from Mumbai City while Andre Bikey followed Coppell from Jamshedpur.
Almost halfway through the season, the returns for the Kolkata club on the mentioned signings have been mixed. Lanzarote was unsurprisingly handed the captain’s armband and the skillful attacker continues to be ATK's go-to player in attack.
Although his quality has been evident, Lanzarote has managed three goals and two assists so far for ATK in ten games. which in comparison with his season with FC Goa, pales. Like Lanzarote, Uche too bagged 13 goals in his last campaign but has managed just the solitary one at Kolkata in five games before being sidelined with a knee injury.
Johnson has been a reliable presence at the back for Coppell along with Bikey while Vieira has established himself as one of the first names in midfield. Everton Santos has been used in his usual attacking positions and has been playing in midfield. Coppell has transformed the offensive players to play as per his conservative style which does not really allow them a lot of creative freedom.
While ATK’s signings have been a mixed bag, Mumbai City’s capture of Uruguayan midfielder Matias Mirabaje from Delhi looks increasingly a big waste with each passing game. The midfielder’s appearances have been sporadic and few and far between with a total of 65 minutes in the pitch so far. The Uruguayan showed glimpses of his quality at Delhi last season with three goals but has looked unfit and sluggish in his Mumbai stint.
Meanwhile, Pune City brought Uruguay’s Martin Diaz from NorthEast United to bring defensive stability to the backline but the side’s defence has been the worst by far this season with 21 goals conceded in just nine matches. It has to be noted that NorthEast had the worst defence last season.
Marcos Tebar returned to Delhi for a second stint after playing a key role in Pune City’s march to the playoffs last season and has not really had the same impact with Delhi.
While it is good that the teams are going for proven players, they also need to ensure the players fit in the coach's system.