North East United FC created a flutter by signing World Cup winner Joan Capdevila as their marquee player in July. The Meghalaya-based outfit went on to show that roping in the Spaniard was not a false dawn as the franchise followed it up by signing several other decent foreigners to play alongside their impressive contingent of Indian players. Like the other seven Indian Super League (ISL) franchises, North East United have foreign players in every department.
Goalkeeper – Alexandros Tzorvas
The Greece international is a superb buy of North East United and the 32-year-old is expected to stand between the sticks for Ricki Herbert’s side throughout the course of the tournament. Alexandros has thus far earned 16 caps for his nation and also counts clubs like Panathinaikos, Palermo and Genoa as his former employers. The custodian, who represented Greece at the 2010 World Cup and the 2012 European Championship, is still in his prime and will bring in a wealth of experience to North East United. Fellow shot-stoppers Rehnesh TP and Kunzang Bhutia will also be grateful to have a senior goalkeeper of Alexandros’ stature in the franchise.
Defenders – Joan Capdevila, Massamba Sambou, Miguel Garcia and Tomas Josl
Capdevila is definitely the stand-out name in this segment with the Spaniard being a former World Cup and European Championship winner. The 36-year-old, who started his playing career at Tarrega, has more than 330 La Liga appearances to his name while playing for Espanyol, Atletico Madrid, Deportivo La Coruna and Villarreal. The left-back also represented Portuguese giants Benfica and his signing can be considered a coup not only for North East United, but for the ISL as a whole. Capdevila, who earned 60 caps for Spain between 2002 and 2011, is the franchise’s marquee signing.
Senegal international Sambou is a product of Monaco’s youth system and signed his first professional contract with the club in 2006. During his stay at Stade Louis II, the 28-year-old spent loan spells at fellow French clubs Le Havre and Nantes. The central defender, who can also play as a defensive midfielder, then joined Greek outfit Atromitos in 2010. However, Sambou returned to France after just a season in Greece and had a small stint with Troyes before signing for Chateauroux in 2012. The versatile defender, who has just a solitary cap for Senegal to his name, is dangerous in set-piece situations.
Garcia is another shrewd pick by NorthEast United. The right-back began his playing career at Sporting Lisbon and made 52 appearances for the Portuguese heavyweights. The 31-year-old, who also played for Braga and Mallorca amongst other clubs, is yet to earn a senior cap for Portugal, but represented the nation at Under-21 level.
Josl is a Czech left-back, who is known for his speed. The 29-year-old is somewhat an unknown package and is expected to be a back-up to Capdevila.
Midfielders – Isaac Chansa, Kondwani Mtonga, Guilherme Castro and Do Dong-hyun
None of the above mentioned names are world class players, but the quartet are expected to provide the necessary steel and creativity to North East United’s midfield. The Zambian duo of Chansa and Mtonga are not new to playing in India, having featured for I-League side Shillong Lajong FC, who are one of the owners of the franchise, in the previous season. Both the midfielders have represented Zambia, but Chansa is a more accomplished midfielder of the two. The 30-year-old has more than 50 caps for his country, and was part of the Zambian squad, which won the 2012 African Cup of Nations.
South Korean Dong-hyun is a nippy customer, who can play as an attacking midfielder and also as a winger. Being just 20 years old, the versatile player has age on his side. Dong-hyun has the experience of playing in the A-League for Brisbane Roar and also represented J. League Division 2 team FC Gifu. On the other hand, Brazilian Castro is a defensive midfielder. The 22-year-old, who represented the South American nation at the 2009 Under-17 World Cup, has played for Brazilian second division outfits Uniao Barbarense and Ferrovaria.
On paper, North East United’s midfield looks a bit weak as compared to the other departments, but there is still time to sign players. In addition, the energetic bunch of Indian players in the franchise’s ranks can more than make up for the absence of big names in midfield.
Forwards – Cornell Glen and Luis Yanes
Like Chansa and Mtonga, Glen also played the previous season for Shillong Lajong. The Trinidad and Tobago international possesses the experience of playing at a World Cup, having represented his nation at the showpiece event in Germany in 2006. Despite Trinidad and Tobago failing to clear the group stage hurdle and Glen not being able to find the back of the net, the 32-year-old’s performance at the World Cup was much appreciated. The striker, who counts FC Dallas, Columbus Crew and San Jose Earthquakes amongst his former employers, signed for Lajong last term and ended up being the I-League’s joint top-scorer with 14 strikes to his name. NorthEast United hierarchy would be hoping for a similar goalscoring return from Glen in the inaugural ISL.
Yanes is a Colombian striker, who possesses a deadly right foot. Capped five times by his country, the 31-year-old has failed to score at the international level. However, Yanes, who has played for Santa Fe, Lille and Zamora amongst others, could be a perfect foil for Glen upfront. He has a knack of taking long-rangers, which may catch the rival defences off-guard in the ISL.