The city of joy- Kolkata, which is often termed as Mecca of Indian football, had as many as four professional football clubs plying their trade in the top division of Indian football last season. Three clubs for sure make up the big three in western city of India, namely- East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohommedan Sporting Football Club. The big three is the name given to this special pack of clubs due to their tremendous fan following in the region. The East Bengal and Mohun Bagan derby, which is often referred to as Indian El Clasico, attests this fact.
Among many other clubs in the city of Kolkata, there are certain clubs who are trying to build their fan base, and what better way to do that than by showcasing good talent on the pitch and signing influential players. Since their inception in the year 1927 as Eveready Association, Prayag United never grew its wings as dense as many of their city rivals. Post the promotion to the big league in 2007, Prayag United (United Sports Club) slowly but maturely cemented its place near the big boys. The recent conclusion to the I-League season saw Prayag United finish seventh in the league, fifteen points off the eventual winners Dempo SC. The Kolkata based side won the prestigious Durand Cup in 2010 and finished Runners up last season (on penalties).
So clearly the intent is there, and to take this intent to the next level, Prayag United have made some exceptional signings this summer to boost their squad in such a way that can go all the way and jump straight into the title chasing pack. TheHardTackle brings some of the new players under the microscope and examines their credibility.
Strikers Up Front
Ranti Martins, Carlos Hernandes-
The biggest signing of the season has to be Dempo start striker Ranti Martins choosing to ply his trade for the Kolkata side. Dubbed as the most expensive signature in the history of Indian Football, Ranti is rumored to be signed by Prayag United for a whopping 1.75 crores plus some perks. The Nigerian, who netted in thirty two goals last season, is expected to spearhead the attack for the purple brigade come next season. His style of play will suit the tactics usually deployed by Sonjay Sen and having said that, Prayag have also signed couple of good playmakers, which makes the deal sound all the more dangerous for the opponents next season.
Carlos Hernandes, former Costa Rica international ruffled some feathers joining the purple brigade. The big money signing easily can top the list of big signings since the inception of the league, as he has donned national colors during the 2006 FIFA World Cup. He is ready to partner Ranti upfront and if they synch up well, then they both are easily capable of dismantling any defense in the league.
Custodians Under The Bar
Subrata Pal, IshanDebnath and Sangram Mukherjee-
The India number one goalkeeper was roped in by Prayag United in a very shrewd transfer deal. As the custodian showed interest to move back to his homeland, Prayag offered a sumptuous deal to the sturdy lad, which he couldn’t refuse. With the sealing of this deal, Prayag united covered for another loophole in their gameplay last season. Introduction to a goalkeeper of Subrata’s stature will surely raise the bar among the defenders and two new goalkeepers who have joined the squad are Ishan Debnath and veteran Sangram Mukherjee. Ishan Debnath, who gave a lot of gritty performances during his stint with Mumbai FC last season in the company of Subrata Pal and Sangram would surely enable his growth for the future and obviously make the bench more robust when games come in thick and fast at the business end of the season.
Lester Fernandes, Baldeep Singh, MP Zakeer, TapanMaity-
The Pune FC duo of Lester and Baldeep are all set to don the Prayag United jersey next season. Both the players had a prominent season for the Red Lizards, which saw Pune FC finish fifth in the I-league table. They both also donned national colors this year, attesting their rich form. Prayag United have reportedly paid close to 90 lakhs for the Lester deal, which includes his annual wages. Signing of former JCT midfielder Baldeep Singh was another shrewd move by Nabab Bhattacharya and his thinking tank. A tireless worker in the middle of the park could shield their attack minded formation in the season to come. MP Zakeer, the talented Churchill Brothers midfielder also inked his deal, initiating the high profile move. Zakeer would be seen partnering captain Lalkamal or James Singh in the middle of the park, taking up the responsibility of spreading the ball and orchestrating the moves. The side also included Tapan Maity, a similar kind of proven player from Mohammedan Sporting, in order to augment their bench strength.
Gourmangi Singh, Gour Naskar, Ravinder Singh
Prayag United have bolstered their defense this season by introduction of India international Gourmangi Singh from Churchill Brothers. Bello Rasaq, who was the main stalwart at the back for Sonjay Sen’s side during the last season, is a good reader of the game from the back, and pairing Singh at the back with him will add teeth to their defense. Singh being good in the air can be lethal in front of both the goals. Along with the Gourmangi, Prayag United have also managed to get the sign of left back Ravinder Singh from city rivals East Bengal and right back Gour Naskar from Southern Samity. Gour Naskar has had a more than decent season with the Samity and has been roped in mainly for his experience in the Kolkata League.
Some of the key players who have made their departures from the side
Denson Devadas - Joined Mohun Bagan
Arnab Mondal & Abhijit Mondal- Joined East Bengal
We often have seen big European clubs make more than impressive signings during the summer. Real Madrid’s Galacticos comes to the mind, so does Chelsea’s star studded line up post the Roman Abramovich takeover. Hardly do we see an Indian club going on such a spending spree, assembling some of the best players from the league, to form a dangerous team. It is yet to be seen, whether these changes bring home the gold or it will fizz out in managing the huge egos in the dressing room.