With the ISL 2019-20 less than two weeks away, it’s time to take a look at the people who matter: The players. With football teams like ATK and Odisha FC being extra-active in the transfer market, there are entirely new combinations that will make for an exciting and action-packed sixth season of the Indian Super League. Last year, players like Corominas, Sahal Abdul Samad, Sunil Chhetri, Arnold Issoko, Udanta Singh and Manuel Lanzarote lit up the edition with superb man-of-the-match performances across the long season.
This time, here are the 5 most exciting ISL players to look out for:
ROY KRISHNA (ATK)
It’s clear that ATK have had enough of sub-standard team performances – the last two seasons have seen the two-time champs finish in the bottom 4. And so they have signalled their ambitions with an aggressive, colossal signing in the form of popular Fijian striker Roy Krishna, a veteran A-league player who has quite a prolific reputation. The Fiji national captain has solid international experience (including the Olympics), and will be a much-needed addition to a floundering ATK lineup that scored only 18 goals last season and 16 in the one before that.
JEJE LALPEKHLUA (CHENNAIYIN)
The Mizoram striker, who plays upfront for India alongside Sunil Chhetri, endured a miserable season for Chennaiyin last year. This reflected in their overall performance – Chennaiyin became the first defending champions to finish last in their next season. But coach John Gregory has retained the hard-working striker, and expects him to hit the form that took Chennaiyin to the title in 2018. A surgery later, Jeje 2.0 is perhaps ready to take off.
ASAMOAH GYAN (NORTHEAST UNITED)
Who can forget the World Cup commentators screaming “Gyaaaaaan” over the last decade and a half? The goal against the United States that took Ghana to the 2010 FIFA World Cup quarterfinal? The missed penalty against Uruguay? The African superstar has quite a legacy in FIFA tournaments – ending up as the highest African scorer of goals in World Cup history. He has played in Serie A, Ligue 1 and the EPL too, and has spent his last few years in the Chinese, UAE and Turkish super-leagues. It came as a pleasant surprise when NorthEast United – a team that enjoyed a resurgence last season to make the semis – signed the striker, making him perhaps the most exciting international player of ISL 2018-19.
MANUEL ONWU (BENGALURU FC)
There’s no Miku for the defending champions, but Spanish striker Manuel Onwu replaces him in a season that might once again see the Spaniards dominate the goal-scoring charts. All he has to do is look across at Coro in FC Goa for inspiration, and Onwu is all set to start his ISL innings with a team that has stood far above the rest in their first two seasons. He will have none other than Indian captain Sunil Chhetri to guide him into his new role.
MOHAMMAD NAWAZ (FC GOA)
The teenager stepped up as the goalkeeper for the most aggressive team of the ISL last season in order to plug the obvious defensive leaks. Nawaz was impressive in the first half of the season before he got injured, keeping 4 clean sheets in his first 13 games. He will be frustrated by the fact that he had to occupy the bench in the ISL 2018-19 final, where Goa went down 1-0 to Bengaluru. But one expects the rising star to be a first-choice keeper this season for a team that has easily been the best ISL team to not win a title yet.