I-League is back. After a mini hiatus, as all the teams gear up to resume their respective battles in the league. During the winter break, AIFF squeezed in the Federation Cup wherein teams fought hard to clinch glory in Kerala. But at the same time, Indian football fanatics kept a vigilant eye on the winter transfer market, just like the European counterparts. The winter transfer window has always sprung some surprises and over the years, various teams have shrewdly used it to their advantage. This year’s edition was no exception, with some big shots in Indian football adding teeth to their respective squads. Let’s have a look at top five players who have switched teams post the break, and could prove to be very influential for their teams.
Ranti Martins is a household name in Indian football scene for quite a few years now. The former Dempo hit man was signed by United SC in order to help the Kolkata club garner silverware, which was a record move. Lately the Kolkata based club has struggled to find a sponsor, which meant a lot of players being offloaded in order to save money. Initially Ranti was never an option for the aforementioned cause, but as the financial challenges became too huge to sustain the Nigerian striker’s salary, he was sent on loan to Rangdajied United. United SC has since then roped in four new players to fill the void created by mass exodus.
Santosh Kashyap’s side, which lie at the bottom of the league table after 16 games, still have eight very important fixtures to deal with. Without a doubt the Meghalaya side need to garner maximum points from these games and hitting the back of the net has not been this side’s forte per se. (Rangdajied United has scored only 14 goals this season in the I-League). With Manandeep’s injury and Edmar’s inability to score, signing of a striker was imminent for the north eastern side, in order to stay afloat. Clearly, signing of a three time golden boot winner and a record goal scorer in the I-league was the best option available, and Rangdajied pounced. The signing of Ranti certainly could turn out to be the a vital game changer for the club as Brazilian Edmar seems to be all set to leave the valley.
The sturdy midfielder returns to his old club to help his former employers stay afloat this season. Mumbai FC started the season on a high, after bolstering their squad with SAFF Cup winning Afghan players. But soon things went haywire with the side losing four games out of five in October and November. Mumbai FC is currently slotted right above the drop zone, and with teams in the relegation zone buying in the transfer season in order to rejuvenate their season, Khalid Jamil mentored side took advantage of the dying days in the transfer market to grab their former player.
Without a doubt, Ebi Sukore has been very influential for Mumbai FC in the previous editions of the league. During his two seasons at the club ( 2010-12), the lanky midfielder scored a total of 13 goals with numerous assists against his name. Albiet his farewell from the Mumbai side was marred by some unwanted incidents between the club and the player over pending monetary dues. With the league tightening up its screws at the bottom of the table and with only a handful of games left in the kitty, Sukore needs to bring his A game, as his side need some top performances to hoard crucial points in the remainder of the season.
The Afghanistan captain and now an ex Mumbai FC captain joined the Golden Eagles at the start of the winter transfer window. When the robust defender signed a new contract with the coastal side in June, it was clear that his sight was set on making Mumbai FC finish in a more than respectable position in the league. He was also joined by his countrymen as Mumbai FC embarked a new season of hope. But suddenly the season took a turn for the bad and soon the Khalid Jamil mentored side was languishing in the botton half of the table. Ergo this move surprised a lot of fans, especially when the captain of the club was the first one to leave the sinking boat.
Anyhow, one man’s loss is other’s opportunity. Dempo made the offer and soon Amiri was flaunting a Dempo jersey. The Afghani defender replaces Japanese Honda at the back, as the latter packs his bag. He will certainly be a man to watch out for the remainder of the season as Dempo look to finish their season on a high note. Amiri does not only bring his defensive robustness to the plate, but also adds to the ariel threat from set pieces. His attacking prowess can be attested by the three goals he scored during his time at the Mumbai club. The Football Players’ Association of India Fans’ Player of the Year for the season 2012-13 is an industrious defender and rarely misses being in the first eleven. The SAFF cup lifting captain of the Afghanistan team will surely be tremendous addition among the Dempo ranks as they prepare to finish the season strongly.
After the disapointment of losing at the final stage of the Federation Cup, Sporting Clube look to take their title challenge forward from where the Oscar Bruzon side had left before the break. The Flaming Oranje are currently placed at the second position in the league table and the club made sure that they made enhancements to their squad to sustain the rest of the season. Addition of Martins Ekwueme to the squad will see the Nigerian play in a defensive midfield role alongside the various attacking players the club possesses at the moment.
Martins has been signed from the Polish first division club Flota Świnoujście. Martins has plied his trade in Polish football since 2000 and has been more than decent during his playing time for various teams. For Flota Świnoujście, Martins Ekwueme was part of the club’s lineup 9 times in the 1 Liga. He was 6 times in the starting team, got substituted in 2 times and stayed on the bench a single match. The 28 yr old holding midfeilder would surely be an asset to the club as they close in on Bengaluru FC.
After loosing out on Tolgay Ozbey, Mohammedan Sporting had to make a move for an attacker for the rest of the season. The Kolkata side did not waste much time in getting experienced Japanese striker put pen to paper. The 34 yr old striker brings immense experience with attacking instincts to the desk as he looks to have a vital impact on an otherwise below average season for the Black Panthers in the I-League.
Mohammedan Sporting has already garnered to major silverware this season in the legendary Durand Cup and now the IFA shield. But it is the top division of football in India which will be on top priority as Sonjay Sen looks to stay afloat this season. Mohammedan Sporting are currently hovering in the relegation zone with 13 points from as many games. Albiet Taro Hasegawa has scored 42 goals from a total of 197 apperances in J-League and J-League 1 during his career in japan, spanning close to 16 yrs, Hasegawa hasnt hit the back of the net in his last 27 performances for Giravanz Kitakyushu. Definitely the Japanese striker will be looking to change that as he embarks a new journey with the Black Panthers in a city which is the heart of Indian football.