Mehtab started his career from a club named Tollygunge Agragami, and soon got noticed by Mohun Bagan recruiters. He signed for the club in 2003 and soon proved himself, becoming one of the most important players of the squad and became the captain of his side. Mehtab’s ball skills were much talked about, and he secured his place in the national team squad since 2005. Be it Sukhwinder Singh, Syed Nayeemuddin or Wim Koevermans, Mehtab was part of everyone’s plans. In 2007 Mehtab signed of the most controversial deals with arch-rival KEB after a dubious transfer saga.
Mehtab’s rise was largely helped after the arrival of Trevor James Morgan, who began to make full use of his defensive abilities. In 2010 the former Hull City and Bolton Wanderers development coach, started his journey as the manager of Kingfisher East Bengal Club. And under Morgan’s regime, Mehtab flourished as the midfield general for the Red & Gold brigade. Mehtab was Morgan’s first choice in the center of the mid-field, playing just ahead of defenders. He, along with Penn Orji, has been the differentiating factor between KEB and other teams. It was mostly due to the flexibility and compatibility of these two players KEB coach could have easily altered the formation on the pitch according to the requirement, and situation. His dedication and hard work earned him the love and respect from his colleagues and supporters.
Even under the new coach for KEB, Marcos Fallopa, Mehtab seems to be the automatic choice into the team. But he now seeks a place and probably to leave a mark on European grounds, and what better country to do that than Spain. The reigning World and Euro champions, and the country with glorious heritage of club football, awaits Mehtab. The news came in the newspapers of Spain that one of the finest players of India, carrying the heritage and style of playing from the country, would be coming to trials for some Spanish clubs.
Mehtab signed a contract with agent Ravi Daswani, a Spanish born Indian, who has roped the links between the player and the Spanish Club. According to Daswani Mehtab’s profile has been sent to some first and second division clubs of Spain, and he will probably be called for trial in July/August. Deportivo La Coruna has been one of the big names that has reportedly shown interest in Mehtab.
Deportivo La Coruna has been in real discomfort for the last three seasons. They have been promoted and relegated from the La Liga in a fairly regular fashion. They finshed in 19th place last season and will compete in second division league next year. But the 12 season run from 1992-93 to 2003-2004 had been spectacular for them to say the least. Apart from winning the league title in 1999-2000, Deportivo ended four seasons as runners-up and another four times in top three. They also were qualified for the Champions League five years in a row. In 2004, they reached the semi-final stage of UCL, before getting knocked out by Jose Mourinho’s FC Porto. Their stay in the top level of Spanish and international football came to an end as they were relegated after finishing 18th in 2010-11. Coruna holds the record of being the smallest city to win La Liga.
Despite their relegation last year, they managed to give good fight to Barcelona when they finished on the losing side in match with score line of 4-5 as Messi’s hat-trick saved Villanova’s side. But Deportivo’s run wasn’t enough to save them from relegation. Now, as the new season awaits, Depotivo would be looking to make a comeback to La Liga.
According to the Spanish newspapers, Mehtab will be giving trials in few other clubs as well. But the history of Indian footballers in abroad is not in favor of the midfielder. Earlier his national teammate Sunil Chhetri tried his luck in Portugal with one of the best teams in the league, Sporting Lisbon. He was selected for Team B after the trial, but the game time could have hardly satisfied the Indian Captain. He grabbed the opportunity of coming back to India and I-League, when a loan transfer request was made by Churchill Brothers. He was one of the key factors to make Churchill Brothers champion of I-League last year. Now Chhetri looks more keen to play for the newly promoted team JSW in I-League for the upcoming season, and is looking for a release from the Portuguese club.
The only Indian player to gain some respect on the international ground was Baichung Bhutia. In 1999, the former India Captain and striker penned the contract with League Two club from England, Bury FC. But an injury-prone stay made his life difficult in England. He delivered some good performances despite his problems with work permit but was released by the club, and came back to join his mother club East Bengal and helped them to win ASEAN Cup. He finished as the top scorer in ASEAN Cup and was offered to play for clubs in Malaysia. He played for Perak and later for Selangor MK with moderate success.
Over the years, number of Indian players haqve tried their luck in European countries and failed. Most of them came back injured, frustrated and keen to concentrate on Indian football. The likes of Sunil, Mehtab, Subrata Paul, Gurpreet Singh and even Baichung, all had one thing common. They were not at par technically and physically, when compared to the rest of the players in Europe. The game abroad demands lot of stamina and endurance from its players, and in a competitive world, it only makes things hard for Indians.
Mehtab has been highly successful in club and international kit, (he holds one the rare honours of leading both big clubs in Kolkata). As a player he would be looking for maximum game time, but he can hardly expect that in a Spanish club. Though his agent Dawani seemed confident enough to say that if Mehtab can impress the selectors in Spain, he would bag a full-time contract with the club. He also added that his firm ‘RD Global Sports’ would help him and other Indian players in future with playing opportunities in Europe or other clubs in Asia.
As Mehtab said earlier, after coming back from trials in Scotland –the exposure and the experience was good, and it was nice to learn from the masters of the game. Baichung also accepted that his style of play had improved a lot after playing in England. Now every football fan in India, will wait keenly to see the progress of the Mehtab’s trial, and would sincerely pray and hope that he crosses the hurdles, and reaches finishing line.