With the Season 2 of the Indian Super League less than a week away, hope and anticipation surrounds every fan in India as one would expect. But almost all the craze is about the Indian stars and foreign marquee players, and not much is known about other foreign elements who could prove to be key towards their team’s success. Here, we take a good look at the 5 non-marquee foreign players who could play a vital role in the fate of their respective clubs this season.
Didier Zokora (FC Pune City)
The former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder will be seen playing for FC Pune City in the upcoming season of the ISL. Zokora started his career in 1999, playing for ASEC Mimomas in Ivory Coast before moving to Genk the very next year. The 34-year old then apparently turned down Manchester United and Chelsea to sign for Tottenham Hotspur. After three years in England, the Ivorian moved to Spain, where he played for Seville. He played for Akhisar Belediyespor, before making his way into the ISL. Zakora is the most capped player, with 123 caps for Ivory coast and he also featured in the World Cup of 2006 and 2010. He can sit in front of the defence, offering the midfielders more freedom to go forward. The veteran is a great signing for Hrithik Roshan’s team. Pune struggled to make a mark last time out, but the Maharashtra outfit have really strengthened their team this time. They will want to make an impression from the word go.
Gustavo Marmentini (Delhi Dynamos)
The young Brazilian is on loan from Atl tico Paranaense and is an outrageously talented attacking midfielder. He did not get much opportunity to showcase his ability last season, but is sure to make an impact for the Delhi Dynamos this time around. The 21-year old featured in a 0-0 draw against Pune City FC last season when he came on as a late substitute. He really caught the eye though, with his stunning solo goal against Chennayin FC as he stormed past the Chennayin midfield, showed great skill and finished perfectly into the bottom left-hand corner with his favourite left foot. One of the best goals of the first ISL season, surely. Marmentini is fast, skillful and quick. It will be interesting to see how he shapes up with Florent Malouda and co. Definitely a player to watch out for.
Sony Norde (Mumbai City FC)
The Mohun Bagan star is set to feature for Mumbai City FC and he is another non-marquee player who is expected to shine on the big stage. The lethal Haiti forward doubled up as a deadly dead ball specialist and goalscorer in the 2014-2015 season of the I-league, scoring 11 goals in 25 appearances for Mohun Bagan. Apart from being a goalscorer, he is also a brilliant crosser of the ball. Norde earned himself 13 assists in the I-league last season, and was a pivotal figure in their league win. Ranbir Kapoor clearly wasted no time in signing him and the 28-year old’s pace on the wings will be the cutting edge to the already formidable Mumbai City FC attack. After looking at Mumbai City’s attacking options, you wouldn’t want to bet against them finishing with the highest number of goals at the end of the season.
Juan Aguilera (Mumbai City FC)
Juan Aguilera is a brilliant midfielder. Coming through the youth ranks of Real Madrid, the Spaniard has loads of experience. He could never make it big in Spain, but nevertheless, he’s a wonderfully gifted player. He played for Greek club Platanias FC for three years before making his way into the ISL. Although he isn’t known for his goal scoring prowess, he can pick out a pass and has the legs to help in defensively. Mumbai City FC have perhaps the best attack in the league, and the 30-year old is expected to play alongside Andre Moritz, another foreigner who had a huge impact last season. If these two can give the right service to the front men, it will rain goals for Mumbai City FC.
Cedric Hengbart (North East United FC)
Northeast United FC have managed to rope in French defender Cedric Hengburt from Kerala Blasters. The 35-year old was a key player for the south Indian side who reached the final in season 1 of the ISL. After playing for Kerala Blasters last time out, the Frenchman played for Ligue 2 side Ajaccio and is in great from coming into this season. Essentially a centre-back, Hengbart can also play as a fullback which gives him more freedom to get forward. His positional sense is good, and like last season, he will be looking to make an impact this campaign too. The Guwahati-based side failed to make it to the playoffs after knocking on the door last time, but they’ll want to bounce back strongly under the ownership of Bollywood star John Abraham