The first couple of seasons of the Indian Super League (ISL) saw some legends of the game grace the Indian soil in the twilight of their careers. The experienced players were instrumental in the development of Indian players in the squad in some capacity or the other.
One such marquee player was French World Cup-winning striker David Trezeguet. The former Juventus forward experienced the highs and lows of World Cup football – he won the coveted trophy in 1998 and missed a decisive penalty in the shoot-out against Italy in the 2006 final.
The striker joined FC Pune City as their marquee player in 2014 and spent one season at the club. The Stallions finished sixth that season, three points below a play-off spot. Trezeguet displayed glimpses of brilliance during this period and more importantly, helped nurture the young Indian players in the squad.
A crucial element of ATK’s 2019-20 ISL title-winning side, Pritam Kotal was a budding footballer at Pune in 2014. At just 21, the wing-back who often functioned as a winger was in the formative years of his footballing career.
Goal caught up with 26-year-old as he ran back the years and spoke about what having a World Cup winner in the dressing room was like. Pritam described Trezeguet as a very demanding person on the field who loved to dictate play from his position.
“His first touch was very good. He used to help the players a lot. He never tried to hit the ball hard and was always trying to place it well. He displayed the killer instincts of a striker,” he explained.
The pair played together just five times that season. But it was a learning experience for young Pritam. Trezeguet’s demanding personality allowed him to work on timing his deliveries to the striker.
He said - “He always asked me to deliver the cross first time and not wait for the striker to get into position. He used to say that he will get into position whenever he found the opportunity. He said that it was my duty to put in the cross as early as possible and it was his duty to get into position and score.”
Players like Trezeguet helped the young Indian players work on the tactical and technical aspects of their game. But it does not end there. The work ethic and commitment was bound to inspire the youngsters in the budding phase of their career. Pritam spoke about how Trezeguet’s commitment to stay fit was infectious.
“His skill and technique were top notch. He brought a personal trainer with him at his age (37). His trainer used to prepare his diet and he used to take care of himself very well.
“He was shy and never spoke much. But he was a different person on the pitch and always demanded from the players. He was friendly in training and during the match. He communicated a lot while on the pitch,” Pritam concluded.
Trezeguet scored two goals for the Stallions that season – against FC Goa in a 2-0 win and against Kerala Blasters in a 2-1 defeat. At the end of the 2014 season, the Frenchman hung up his boots to conclude a glorious career.
Pritam went on to win the I-League and the Federation Cup with Mohun Bagan. He also received his first national team call-up the following year.
He is now a regular face in the national team, an ISL winner with ATK and one of the best defenders in the country.