FC Pune City is Indian Soccer League franchisee owned by Salman Khan and the Wadhawan group. The induction of the team makes it the second team, after Pune FC to represent the city at a League level nationally. Shree Siv Chhatarapati stadium having a seating capacity of just more than 11,000, will be playing hosts to the newly found franchisee.
Like many franchisees, the club has already started to sew its international tie-ups with Italian powerhouses Fiorentina. The ‘El Viola’ as the Florence based club is nicknamed, has enjoyed its share of league and European football since its foundation in 1926. The club has gone on to win 2 Italian Championships, 6 Coppa Italia, 1 Italian super cup and 1 UEFA Cup winner’s cup in their 88year history. The Italian side finished fourth in Serie A, last season.
The Franchisee has already signed a marquee manager in Franco Colomba. Franco Colomba, started his coaching career with Modena. After three years as a youth coach in Modena, Colomba took his first managerial position as the head of Serie C2 side Olbia. Since Olbia, Colomba has an impressive career spread over 24years wherein , managing 16 teams including the likes of Napoli, Bologna, Parma and Cagliari. His spells with Salernitana and Reggina clearly reflect that the 59year old specializes in guiding low tier or mid tier teams to higher league positions.
One of the most disturbing issues is that ,the Marquee player still eludes the Pune based franchisee. Word has it that an ex- viola will join pune as the marquee player, rumored from Argentinian Gabriel Batistuta to Italian Massimo Ambrosini. However, the club has signed ex- Intermilan player Bruno Cirillo and ex-Juventus man Emanuele Belardi .
The Pune based franchisee, also took part in a two day Indian Super League draft system, wherein 14players were signed by the Club. With the inclusion of two foreigners, we take a look at each department of the Salman Khan owned franchisee :-
Goalkeepers – Emanuele Belardi, Arindam Bhattacharya and Lalit Thapa
By the signings at hand, it is clear that the Pune side has signed some of the most experienced goalkeepers. Emanuele Belardi, started his career in the ranks of Reggina where he became the club’s first choice goal keeper. A 103 appearances with Reggina caught the eye of Italian super giants Juventus and a move to Turin was agreed on a free transfer. Since his departure from Juventus in 2008, Belardi has been shared among the top teams of Italy as a second choice keeper. He has served as the best possible back up to keepers such as Samir Handanovic. In a career of 21 years, Belardi has made close to 200 appearances with clubs such as Juventus, Udinese and Pescara. Another experienced nut, is Arindam Bhattacharya, though only at 25, he has bagged more than 60 appearances for top I leagu clubs such as Churchill Brothers and Mohun Bagan. He was also regarded as the best goalkeeper for the 2008-09 season, after helping Churchill Brothers to the I-league win. The goalkeeping position has been covered quite effectively by the side. The contingent has been made complete with the inclusion of Lalit Thapa, who when called upon will rely on his 5 year experience to deliver and make some exquisite saves. It is emminent that Arindam will play as a positive and effective backup, to the Italian, Belardi.
Defenders – Dharmaraj Ravanan, Pritam Kotal, Deepak Devrani, Anupam Sarkar and Bruno Cirillo.
In a bizarre turn of events the Pune based franchisee, has signed only five defenders including a foreigner. It looks like coach Colomba could very well deploy a three men defense, in which the Italians, often excel.
Bruno Cirillo started his career with Reggina as a Center Back and enjoyed regular first team football after moving to Serie C2 side, Tricase Calcio . His performances with Tricase wherein he scored 2 times in 32appearences and was responsible as the holding pillar of defense in the Tricase back four, caught the eye of Inter Milan scouts. After joining Inter Milan, he appeared for the club just 24times in his sole season before moving to US Lecce. Since then Cirillo has enjoyed football overseas in Greece with AEK Athens and PAOK FC , in France with FC Metz and in Spain with Levante. In a career spreading over 20years divided between clubs based in Italy, Spain, France and Greece, Cirillo has been one of the prominent leading figures for the clubs he played.
It is clear the Cirillio will be the centrifugal point of the Pune defense, flanked by Anupam Sarkar and Dharmaraj Ravanan. Both Dharamaraj and Anupam, have started their careers at a young age, with the latter evolving into a prominent figure in the West Bengal team and captaining them to win the Santosh Trophy in 2010. The defense looks very mature and tactical, with both Pritam Kotal and Deepak Devrani providing the streak of youth in a very stable squad. It does not take a genius say that both Kotal and Devrani, still in their early 20 will develop along the season.
Midfielders – Lenny Rodrigues, Ashutosh Mehta, Manish Maithani, Tapan Maity, Pratik Shinde, Pronay Halder and Mehrajuddin Wadoo
Pune City have cemented and solidified their Midfield by signing some of the most tactically aware players. The star of the midfield will be undoubtedly, Lenny Rodriguez. Lenny Rodriguez started his professional career at the tender age of 17. Good performances with Frans-Pax FC saw him in an unpredictable dream move to Churchill Brothers. Rodriguez, went on to win an I-league in his maiden season with the I league Club and later went on to play a crucial role in the IFA Shield. Often known to sacrifice himself for the team, Lenny Rodriguez is one of the most versatile players in the I-league. The 27year old can operate as Central Midfielder, Defensive Midfielder, Striker and even a Center Back when needed. It is evident that veterans of the game like Tapan Maity , Manish Maithani and Mehrajuddin Wadoo wil benefit from Lenny’s hardworking game. Even more flexibility is added by the inclusion of Wadoo, who can also operate as a striker, defensive midfielder and a central midfielder. The youth brigade is led by Pratik Shinde who at the age of 18 is best talent India has got. Representing India for both the U-13 and U-15 levels, Pratik is the first Indian Player to sign a professional contract with US side, Southern Premier Soccer League Team. Pratik is known for his craftiness with the ball and his eye for goal.
In a brilliant tactical move, the Pune based side has blended some of the most experienced and versatile player with some of the most exiciting prospects in the country. If the Pune side, is able to develop some sort of chemistry and attain a right balance with this mix, then Pune City has one of the best Midfield in the League.
Attackers – Joaquim Abranches and Israil Gurung
Just two players signed and that too without ‘stardust in their feet’, the Pune side could well succumb to this wound, if not treated properly. Both Abranches and Gurung are not known for their goal scoring prowess, with the latter just scoring twice in 12 appearances over 4 years. Same could be said about Abranches, after signing for Dempo at just 19, Abranches made his name scoring vital goals on loan in the Goa Professional League. Playing week in and week out developed him as a player. In 2013, he joined East Bengal and bagged 24 appearances with 4 goals in the following season. The Pune based franchisee cannot rely on just two players to lead them though the season. Attack is one area, where the club needs to focus and focus fast. Links of Alessandro Del Piero have emerged into the media, but its just pure speculation on his decision to join the Pune based club, or not.
With still six remaining slots for foreigners, the Pune based club has still lots of background work to do, ranging from a logo to assistant coaches. The inclusion of Salman Khan as the co owner gives the club great possibility in founding one of the biggest fan followings in the country. In a city, which is already emersed into football, it is quite easy for the fan base to start taking root, moreover the inclusion Salman Khan, is bound to pool in audiences and fans from all across the globe. There have been no official statements on what the club wants to build and what it wants to accomplish, however their recent signing indicate that they will approach the league in a very “Italian Way”, with the possibility of Italian Favorite 3-5-2 being its spearhead. One can only hope that the club like its compatriot Pune FC, pose a serious threat for the title and displays beautiful football with a mix of hardcore defending.
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