With India’s top flight domestic league, the I-League, set to kick-off on 3rd of December, TheHardTackle takes a look at the major transfer activities that took place in the off season. While most of the teams were able to retain their core group of players, quite a few high impact transfer deals have taken place as well. The players currently engaged with Indian national team are set to miss a large chunk of League action this season, hence they have not been considered while compiling this list.
TheHardTackle’s Top-10 transfers of the season are:
1. Penn Orji (Midfielder)
From : JCT / To : East Bengal
The diminutive Nigerian had plied his trade for JCT last season. Penn is a terrific ball player who has an eye for producing splendid defense splitting balls for his strikers. He was on East Bengal’s radar for a couple of seasons. Former Red & Gold coach Subhash Bhowmick was a great fan of his skills and it was Mr. Bhowmick who had recommended his name to the East Bengal club officials.
Under the new coach Trevor James Morgan, Penn has rediscovered himself this season. Morgan has deployed him in the “free role” to play all round the park, behind the strikers. He has formed a fearsome partnership with Mehtab Hussain in East Bengal’s midfield and has performed admirably well so far.
2. Muritala Ali (Forward)
From : Mahindra United / To : Mohun Bagan
After Mahindra United got dismantled, Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan did not waste a single minute to rope in the proven goal scorer. With his inclusion, Mohun Bagan arguably crafted the most devastating attacking formation in the country – Muritala Ali partnered by evergreen Jose Barreto and Edeh Chidi.
He has already bagged the highest goal-scorer award with 18 goals to his name in Mohun Bagan’s Kolkata League campaign. He was also the highest scorer for his club in the Federation Cup scoring 5 goals.
3. Tolgay Ozbey (Forward)
From : Blacktown City FC / To : East Bengal
When East Bengal officials asked their new coach Trevor James Morgan about a talented striker, Morgan immediately pointed towards Tolgay Ozbey, who was plying his trade for Blacktown City FC in Australia’s New South Wales Premier League. He was the top scorer in NSW League last season.
Tolgay has been an instant hit with the fans – scoring for the Red & Gold outfit in almost every match. He has scored 9 goals in KFL, 4 in Federation Cup and 2 in Durand Cup for East Bengal. His excellent partnership with young Robin Singh in the attacking third can be a cause of headache for the rival coaches.
4. Abhijit Mondal (Goalkeeper)
From : Dempo SC / To : Chirag United
Four times I-League Champion with Dempo, the proven shot stopper Abhijit Mondal was looking for an offer from his hometown Kolkata to stay closer to his family. So when Chirag United approached him with the right offer, he did not hesitate to leave the Champion club and join this relatively new outfit.
He has been in immaculate form, in Chirag colors, so far this season and was instrumental in the recent Durand Cup triumph.
5. Yusif Yakubu (Forward)
From : East Bengal / To : Salgaocar SC
The all time top scorer in I-League, with over 100 goals to his name, the veteran Ghanaian was released by East Bengal at the end of the season. He was also the highest scorer for East Bengal last season. Yet the club decided to give him the axe in favor of infusing young blood. Karim Bencharifa, who had a tough time restricting the marauding Yakubu during his tenure as the Mohun Bagan coach, did not hesitate to sign him for Salgaocar.
Yakubu has nothing left to prove to anyone. However he will be eager to show that the hunger for scoring goals has not died in him yet.
6. Reisangmei Vasum (Winger)
From : Churchill Brothers / To : East Bengal
Vasum was instrumental for Churchill in their 2008-09 I-League glory. He is a natural winger, but can also play as a central midfielder or as a wing back. With Rahim Nabi being unavailable due to the national camp, East Bengal was in search of a proven winger and Vasum fits the bill perfectly. This transfer was also made keeping a long term prospect in mind – as a replacement for the ageing Alvito D’Cunha, when the veteran midfielder decides to call it a day.
Vasum played admirably well this season until he was sidelined with a shoulder injury ahead of the Durand Cup. He is a key player in Trevor Morgan’s scheme of things and Red & Gold faithful will hope that his inclusion to the squad will bring positive impact to the team’s I-League campaign.
7. Chica Wali (Defender)
From : Pune FC / To : Chirag United
The Nigerian centre back, who actually wanted to be striker in his early days, had an impressive debut I-League season with Pune FC. He not only defended resolutely, but also scored a few important goals. The tall and well built defender immediately caught the eyes of another player of his kind, who has turned into an excellent coach by then – Subrata Bhattacharya. During his playing career, Subrata was known as Mohun Bagan’s “Crisis man” – for his ability to score goals whenever his team found itself reeling under pressure.
Chirag supporters will hope that Subrata moulds this player into a replica of his own. And if that happens, Chirag fans can dream, and dream big!
8. M.P. Shakeer (Midfielder)
From : Viva Kerala / To : Churchill Brothers
The 24 years old talented Viva Kerala playmaker decided to part ways with his boyhood club in pursuit of silverware. Shakeer, during his stint with Viva, always got rave reviews from football pundits in the country. It was hardly surprising that several top I-League clubs were ready to splash money to land the talented midfielder. Dempo was also in the race to get his signature, but ultimately Churchill came up with the right offer to acquire his service.
9. Ryuji Sueoka (Midfielder)
From : Mohun Bagan / To : Salgaocar SC
When Karim Bencharifa was made to resign as the coach of Mohun Bagan club after a string of poor performances, the Japanese attacking midfielder also parted away with the club along with his mentor. Soon after Karim was roped in by Salgaocar as their chief of coaching affairs and it is hardly surprising to see Sueoka following him at the Goan club.
Sueoka has been signed as a player from the Asian quota. Even though he did not enjoy a successful stint at Kolkata, there is absolutely no doubt that he is highly skillful.
10. Robin Singh (Forward)
From : TFA / To : East Bengal
East Bengal officials have recruited a gem in Robin Singh. Incidentally he was first spotted in an IFA Shield match for Tata Football Academy against East Bengal. He scored one brilliant goal in TFA’s surprising 3-1 win over the Red & gold brigade. East Bengal did not waste any time and Robin Singh signed the dotted line for the Kolkata Giants just after the conclusion of IFA Shield. Robin Singh was reportedly signed by East Bengal for a whopping amount of rupees 50 lakhs for two season – making him the most expensive footballer ever from Tata Football Academy.
Robin went on to form a devastating combo with his strike partner Tolgay Ozbey in Red & Gold colors. “Toli-Roli”, the nickname given to the duo by the East Bengal faithful, is a massive hit straight away. The pair helped East Bengal to win Federation Cup, Jubilee Cup [Tolgay was rested] and Kolkata League so far in this season. Red & Gold brigade will be hoping that “Toli-Roli” will be able to replicate their magical form in the I-League as well.
Robin Singh’s Goal against Mohun Bagan in KFL 2010