Since the advent of the Indian Super League (ISL) in 2014, we have witnessed the emergence of several new names. While some have flourished and moved from strength-to-strength, others have either vanished as fast as they appeared or have failed to realise their full potential.
Sandesh Jhingan was a break-out star in 2014 and has since established himself as an untouchable at the backline for the Indian senior team. On the contrary, there have been players like Jayesh Rane who has failed to make it to the senior team even after featuring for the U23 side for two consecutive years (2015, 2016).
Under the tutelage of Khalid Jamil, Rane continued his meteoric rise during his loan stint with Aizawl FC. He was one of the livewires for the North-Eastern team as they went on to script history by clinching the I-League title in 2016-17. He racked up 1614 minutes in 18 matches while scoring twice and assisting on two other occassions. Touted as the rising star of Indian football, he was picked in the fourth round by ATK in the ISL draft system last year.
Just when he needed to step up his game and make a strong case in front of Stephen Constantine for his inclusion in the national team, he failed to make any significant contribution in his new colours. Although he made 14 appearances (1031 minutes), he had only 473 touches to the ball. He was one of the mediocre passers of the ball as only 57% of his attempted passes reached a teammate.
The Mumbai-born player operates on the wings whose primary job is to put in crosses from the wide areas. He managed only 21 crosses in the course of the season and was equally ineffective while cutting in from the flanks as he tallied only nine shots with none finding the back of the net.
Bafflingly, it was a far cry from his form during his time at Chennaiyin FC and Mumbai FC.
26-year old Delhi Dynamos winger Romeo Fernandes is another name who has been nothing more than a flash in the pan after a brilliant season with FC Goa back in 2014. Under the guidance of Zico, he was a constant menace on the flanks and went on to score thrice for the Gaurs in 14 matches. Zico himself vetted his move to Brazilian side Atletico Paranaense which made him the first Indian player to play for a Brazilian top-division side. But his overseas move did not translate to a fruitful venture as he managed to get only 21 minutes of action in five months.
In 2016, he had a tepid season with Goa as he failed to make an impact. In 14 matches, he amassed 805 minutes and put in only 16 crosses which are poor returns for a player who operates on the flanks. He did not improve significantly in his new colours when he joined Delhi Dynamos in the 2017-18 season. With only a single assist and an empty goal scoring basket he was far from the player that took ISL by storm in its inaugural edition.
The upcoming season will be a make or break one for the Goan winger as his stock has fallen for the past two seasons. From being considered a bright talent, he has slipped down the pecking order and with only a strong showing in the opening round of fixtures, he can hope to be considered by Constantine for a place in the Asian Cup squad.
Another player who has failed to perform consistently is goalkeeper Debjit Majumder. The 30-year-old shot-stopper has been fortunate enough to turn up for both Mohun Bagan and East Bengal and his claim to fame was a scintillating performance in a Kolkata derby for the Maroon and Greens when he made numerous saves to deny Ranti Martins. He went on to win the 'Goalkeeper of the League' award as Mohun Bagan romped to their first I-League title in 13 years.
He would carry his good run of form in ISL as well where he saved Cedric Hengbart's penultimate spot-kick in the penalty shootout to decide the outcome of the 2016 Indian Super League (ISL). There were numerous calls for Debjit to be included in the national team by then. But an average season in the I-League in the 2016-17 season and then a poor campaign riddled with schoolboy errors with ATK where Soram Poirei displaced him between the sticks saw his stock take a huge beating.
In a 2-1 defeat against Chennaiyin, the Kolkata franchise conceded both the goals due to errors by their goalkeeper. Due to his short stature, he has perpetually struggled to grip crosses and Jeje Lalpekhlua scored the winner when he once again made a complete hash while collecting one of the floating deliveries from the flanks. His performances against Pune City and Jamshedpur FC had also come under the scanner as he continued to be shaky under the sticks conceding 17 goals in 16 matches.
The upcoming season of ISL will be vital for these players to bring their careers back on track. Fernandes has his task cut out as he must pull up his socks before it is too late to reignite his international career. Only a string of impressive performances throughout the season can ensure that rather than flashes of brilliance in one or two matches. Meanwhile, Rane had got three starts in five pre-season games which might indicate that the former Aizawl FC player is in the plans of head coach Steve Coppell. But a tougher task lies ahead of ahead Majumder as he will be challenged by Avilash Paul and Arindam Bhattacharya for a starting berth. Any further slip-up might prove costly for the former Mohun Bagan keeper.