The Indian Super League is back, once again in a bio-bubble in Goa, but with teams who are certainly stronger than last season and also wiser when it comes to playing a season in neutral venues behind closed doors.
The transfer activity, like in the last few campaigns, has been heavy in the off-season, with the likes of ATK Mohun Bagan and Mumbai City FC having a net spend in excess of Rs 45 million.
However, some clubs have also found smarter ways of operating with NorthEast United, FC Goa and Hyderabad FC making profits in the transfer market despite making some significant signings.
As the eighth season of the ISL nears, here’s a look at every club’s squad, their transfer activity and our bird’s-eye-view verdict on how the teams compare ahead of the big kick-off on November 19.
ATK Mohun Bagan
ATK Mohun Bagan squad
|Amrinder Singh||Tiri||Abhishek Suryavanshi||David Williams|
|Arsh Shaikh||Prabir Das||Bidyananda Ningthoujam||Roy Krishna|
|Avinash Paul||Pritam Kotal||Carl McHugh||Manvir Singh|
|Ricky Shabong||Deepak Tangri||Hugo Boumous|
|Sumit Rathi||Joni Kauko||Kiyan Giri|
|Subhasish Bose||Lenny Rodrigues||Liston Colaco|
|Ravi Rana||Michael Soosairaj|
|Ashutosh Mehta||Engson Ningombam|
|GS Gill||Sahil Shaikh|
Ins: Hugo Boumous, Liston Colaco, GS Gill, Ricky Shabong, Joni Kauko, Ashutosh Mehta, Deepak Tangri, Bidyananda Ningthoujam, Amrinder Singh
Outs: Jobby Justin, Arindam Bhattacharja, Sandesh Jhingan, Brad Inman, Edu Garcia, Salam Singh, Javi Hernandez, Komal Thatal, Jayesh Rane, Pronay Halder, Aryan Lamba
Squad strength: 27
Verdict: Having finished as runners-up to Mumbai City FC last season, ATK Mohun Bagan have been busy in the transfer window in order to bridge that gap and they have done an excellent job of it. Hugo Boumous is the marquee signing acquired from their rivals Mumbai City FC along with Liston Colaco who arrived from Hyderabad. The core of the defence and attack is pretty much the same and that should help them hit the ground running. Apart from the midfield, where there have been a few changes, ATK Mohun Bagan have a well-rounded squad with a good mix of youth and experience in all areas. And with the brilliant Roy Krishna leading the line again, solidity at the back and middle will mean they will more often be able to win games if he fires.
ATK Mohun Bagan squad
|Gurpreet Singh Sandhu||Ajith Kamaraj||Ajay Chhetri||Prince Ibara|
|Sharon Padattil||Biswa Darjee||Bruno Silva||Sunil Chhetri|
|Lara Sharma||Roshan Naorem||Iman Basafa||Cleiton Silva|
|Namgyal Bhutia||Damaitphang Lyngdoh||Leon Augustin|
|Parag Srivas||Suresh Wangjam||Udanta Singh|
|Pratik Chowdhari||Rohit Kumar||Siva Narayanan|
|Sarthak Golui||Jayesh Rane|
|Wungngayam Muirang||Danish Farooq|
Ins: Inam Basafa, Bidyasagar Singh, Danish Farooq, Harmanpreet Singh, Bruno Ramires, Sarthak Golui, Jayesh Rane, Prince Ibara, Rohit Kumar, Alan Costa.
Outs: Semboi Haokip, Tomislav Mrcela, Emanuel Lalchhanchhuaha, Joe Zoherliana, Juanan, Rahul Bheke, Harmanjot Khabra, Lalthuammawia Ralte.
Squad strength: 28
Verdict: The Blues have attempted a refresh after the disappointment of last season and it will be interesting to see how the new signings perform. Bengaluru FC’s season pretty much depends on these new arrivals as most of the tried and tested domestic performers have stayed on. With Sunil Chhetri, BFC have an Indian goalscorer that will help them use the foreigners in other areas of the pitch. Bengaluru have a strong Indian contingent but the foreign players will have to gel quickly for the Blues to restore their glory days.
Chennaiyin FC squad
|Samik Mitra||Aqib Nawab||Johnson Mathews||Jobby Justin|
|Devansh Dabas||Balaji Ganesan||Anirudh Thapa||Lukasz Gikiewicz|
|Debjit Majumder||Deepak Devrani||Rafael Crivellaro||Mohamed Liyaakath|
|Vishal Kaith||Slavko Damjanovic||Edwin Vanspaul||Rahim Ali|
|Jerry Lalrinzuala||Ariel Borysiuk|
|Reagen Singh||Mirlan Murzaev|
|Davinder Singh||Germanpreet Singh|
|Narayan Das||Ninthoinganba Meetei|
|Salam Singh||Lallianzuala Chhangte|
Ins: Johnson Mathews, Subhadip Majhi, Suhail Pasha, Devansh Dabas, Vladimir Koman, Lukasz Gikiewicz, Ariel Borysiuk, Narayan Das, Salam Singh, Debjit Majumder, Jobby Justin, Slavko Damjanovic, Deepak Devrani, Ninthoinganba Meetei, Mirlan Murzaev, Davinder Singh.
Outs: Deepak Tangri, Lalchhuanmawia, Eli Sabia, Enes Sipovic, Karanjit Singh, Abhijit Sarkar, Sinivasan Pandiyan, Thoi Singh, Isma, Memo, Manuel Lanzarote.
Squad strength: 30
Verdict: Chennaiyin will go into the season with a few familiar Indian faces but there have been plenty of new additions to the squad. Apart from Rafael Crivellaro, the foreign contingent is fairly new too and the team may find it hard to gel quickly. Chennaiyin’s strength is certainly their attack where they have two quality Indian options in Jobby Justin and Rahim Ali to support the two foreign strikers. The defence, though, is an area of concern for the Marina Machans as they are among only four other teams to have just one foreign player in their defensive ranks. Their Indian contingent that has been at the club for a few years now will have to really step it up in terms of consistency for Chennaiyin to have a chance of adding a third title. The squad size is also slightly bigger than what the coach would have liked.
FC Goa squad
|Hritik Tiwari||Aiban Dohling||Alberto Noguera||Jorge Ortiz|
|Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem||Ivan Gonzalez||Alexander Jesuraj||Devendra Murgaonkar|
|Naveen Kumar||Dylan Fox||Brandon Fernandes||Airan Cabrera|
|Leander D'Cunha||Edu Bedia|
|Mohamed Ali||Flan Gomes|
|Sanson Pereira||Christy Davis|
|Manushawn Fernandes||Glan Martins|
|Saviour Gama||Makan Chote|
|Seriton Fernandes||Muhammed Nemil|
Ins: Airam Cabrera, Nongdamba Naorem, Danstan Fernandes, Manushawn Fernandes, Dylan Fox, .
Outs: Ishan Pandita, Mohammad Nawaz, Aaren D’Silva, Igor Angulo, Seiminlen Doungel, Antonio D’Silva, Sarineo Fernandes, Romeo Fernandes, Amarjit Singh, Phrangki Buam, Shubham Dhas.
Squad strength: 29
Verdict: Continuity is key for success and FC Goa for many years have relied on that policy. They have been the most successful team to not win the title in the ISL and under Juan Ferrando who will be in his second season at the club, FC Goa have a decent chance of mounting a challenge. With the core of their players retained, FC Goa can build on an excellent season last year where they just fell short in the semi-finals on penalties. They have added another batch of Goan youngsters to the squad, an experiment that was quite successful last year. They have lost some big names in Igor Angulo and Ishan Pandita, but they’d believe they have got the right replacements.
|Labiakhlua Jongte||Akash Mishra||Abdul Anjukandan||Bartholomew Ogbehce|
|Laxmikant Kattimani||Asish Rai||Aniket Jadhav||Joel Chianese|
|Gurmeet Singh||Chinglensana Singh||Sahil Tavora||Rohit Danu|
|Nim Dorjee||Halicharan Narzary||Javier Siviero|
|Juanan||Hitesh Sharma||Aaren D'Silva|
|Nikhil Prabhu||Joao Victor|
|Pritam Singh||Souvik Chakrabarti|
Ins: Pritam Singh, Gurmeet Singh, Javi Siviero, Edu Garcia, Bartholomew Ogbeche, Juanan, Aaren D’Silva, Aniket Jadhav, Nim Dorjee,
Outs: Liston Colaco, Aridane Santana, Fran Sandaza, Lluis Sastre, Odei Onaindia, Danmawia, Kynsai, Khongsit, Sweden Fernandes, Lalawmpuia Ralte, Adil Khan, Anuj Kumar, Sahil Panwar.
Squad strength: 26
Verdict: Hyderabad FC have seen some really big-name players leave but they have done a great job of replacing them with some proven performers. Juanan, Edu Garcia and Bartholomew Ogbeche are all past winners of the ISL and will add the necessary experience to the team, an area where they lacked a bit last season. Apart from Liston Colaco, Hyderabad have retained the Indian contingent that was excellent for them last season. The defence is slightly lightweight in terms of numbers and but barring any major injuries, expect Hyderabad to be better and stronger this season with the new additions.
|Mohit Dhami||Anas Edathodika||Boris Singh||Ishan Pandita|
|Pawan Kumar||Karan Amin||Alexandre Lima||Farukh Choudhary|
|Vishal Yadav||Laldinliana Renthlei||Gorachand Mamdi||Greg Stewart|
|TP Rehenesh||PC Laldinpuia||Jitendra Singh||Jordan Murray|
|Narender Gahlot||Komal Thatal||Nerijus Valskis|
|Peter Hartley||Mohammad Mobashir|
|Ricky Lallawmawma||Ritwik Das|
|Sandip Mandi||Pronay Halder|
|Eli Sabia||Seiminlen Doungel|
Ins: Ishan Pandita, PC Laldinpiua, Greg Stewart, Eli Sabia, Seiminlen Doungel, Jordan Murray, Komal Thatal, Pronay Halder, Ritwik Das, Anas Edathodika,
Outs: William Lalnunfela, Joyner Lourenco, Manash Protim Gogoi, Harsha Parui, Raj Mahato, Aniket Jadhav, David Grande, Isaac Vanmalsaawma, Pukhrambam Manisana, Niraj Kumar, Bhupender Singh, Stephen Eze, Nicholas Fitzgerald, Aitor Monroy.
Squad strength: 27
Verdict: Jamshedpur FC have a really well-balanced squad and have made some shrewd additions to their team. While the likes of Ishan Pandita, Komal Thatal and Seiminlen Doungel will add the youthful exuberance, the likes of Pronay Halder, Eli Sabia, Anas Edathodika will bring in the experience. Jamshedpur have come close to the semi-finals on many occasions but have always lacked the x-factor to get over the line. Despite the great balance in the squad, that might be a problem for them this season too.
|Albino Gomes||Abdul Hakku||Harmanjot Khabra||Jorge Diaz|
|Sachin Suresh||Enes Sipovic||Ayush Adhikari||Chencho Gyelsten|
|Muhit Khan||Marko Leskovic||Jeakson Singh||Alvaro Vazquez|
|PS Gill||Jessel Carneiro||Adrian Luna||Sreekuttan VS|
|Denechandra Meitei||Lalthathanga Khawlhring||Anil Gaonkar|
|Nishu Kumar||Givson Singh||Rahul KP|
|Sandeep Singh||Prasanth K|
|Ruivah Hormipam||Sahal Abdul Samad|
|Bijoy V||Seityasen Singh|
|Sanjeev Stalin||Vincy Barretto|
Ins: Ruivah Hormipam, Chencho Gyeltshen, Alvaro Vazquez, Anil Gaonkar, Enes Sipovic, Adian Luna, Sanjeev Stalin, Harmanjot Khabra, Jorge Diaz, Vincy Barretto, Marko Leskovic.
Outs: Shahjas T, Shaiborlang Kharpan, Sergio Cidoncha, Nongdamba Naorem, Vicente Gomez, Bartholomew Ogbeche, Lalruatthara, Jordan Murray, Gary Hooper, Costa Nhamoinesu, Subha Ghosh, Naorem Singh, Rohit Kumar, Bilal Khan.
Squad strength: 30
Verdict: Once again, there have been plenty of changes at Kerala Blasters and it could, once again, come back to haunt the team during the season. The team will begin another season with new foreign faces while the Indian contingent at the club is far from settled. There is talent in the KBFC squad but the team may once again lack a bit of experience or perhaps the leadership that may make the team click as a unit. The squad size is also on the higher side.
Mumbai City FC
|Mohammad Nawaz||Amey Ranawade||Ahmed Jahouh||Igor Angulo|
|Vikram Singh||Valpuia||Tondodnba Singh||Ygor Catatau|
|Phurba Lachenpa||Mandar Rao Desai||Chanso Horam||Vikram Pratap Singh|
|Mehtab Singh||Brad Inman||Bipin Singh|
|Mohamad Rakip||Lalengmawia||Pranjal Bhumij|
|Rahul Bheke||Asif Khan||Gurkirat Singh|
|Huidrom Singh||Cassio Gabriel|
|Mourtada Fall||Raynier Fernandes|
|Vignesh Dakshinamurthy||Rowllin Borges|
Ins: Lalengmawia, Gurkirat Singh, Huidrom Singh, Brad Inman, Igor Angulo, Mohammad Nawaz, Rahul Bheke, Cassio Gabriel, Ygor Catatau,
Outs: Hugo Boumous, Bidyananda Singh, Amarinder Singh, Jackichand Singh, Bartholomew Ogbeche, Adam le Fondre, Cy Goddard.
Squad strength: 27
Verdict: Mumbai City FC too have managed to retain a lot of players but have lost some really key players in Hugo Boumos, Ogbeche, Le Fondre, Cy Goddard and goalkeeper Amarinder Singh. The replacements look quite good on paper but the loss of Boumous and Amarinder might hurt Mumbai in the long run. The Islanders don’t seem to have anyone that can match the creativity of Boumous while Nawaz in goal is great with his feet but certainly suspect when it comes to shot-stopping. The rest of the players have shown their worth last season and there is no reason to doubt the team this season. Despite the changes, Mumbai City FC do have a really strong squad.
|Mirshad Michu||Jestin George||Federico Gallego||Willian Lalnunfela|
|Nikhil Deka||Patrick Flottmann||Imran Khan||Deshorn Brown|
|Sanjiban Ghosh||Provat Lakra||Khassa Camara||Rochharela|
|Subhasish Roychowdhury||Gurjinder Kumar||Hernan Santana||Mathias Coureur|
|Mashoor Shereef||Emmannuel Lalchhanchhuaha||Lalkhawpuimmawia|
|Nabin Rabna||Pragyan Gogoi||Laldanmawia Ralte|
|Mohamed Irshad||Joe Zoherliana||Suhair Vadekkpeedika|
|Tondonba Singh||Gani Nigam||Manvir Singh|
Ins: Danmawia, Pragyan Medhi, Manvir Singh, William Lalnunfela, Jestin George, Mohammed Irshad, Sehnaj Singh, Emmannuel Lalchhanchhuaha, Hernan Santanta, Joe Zoherliana, Mathias Coureur, Mirshad Michu, Tondonba Singh, Patrick Flottmann, Gani Nigam.
Outs: Lalengmawia, Ponif Vaz, Britto PM, Kwesi Appiah, Rakesh Pradhan, Wayne Vaz, Gurmeet Singh, Benjamin Lambot, Luis Machado Ashutosh Mehta, Dylan Fox, Ninthoi Meitei, Idrissa Sylla, Nim Dorjee.
Squad Strength: 30
Verdict: There have been plenty of changes in the Highlanders’ squad with key players like Lalngmawia, Dylan Fox, Ashutosh Mehta, Benjamin Lambot all leaving. NorthEast United have made some really quality additions in midfield and attack to replace these players but the defence that has just one foreign player looks slightly weak. Given Khalid Jamil’s reliance on his defence, that could be a worry. The squad size is also on the higher side.
|Ravi Kumar||Gaurav Bora||Isaac Chhakchhuak||Daniel Lalhlimpuia|
|Arshdeep Singh||Deven Sawhney||Javier Hernandez||Aridai Suarez|
|Kamaljit Singh||Hendry Antonay||Isak Vanlalruatfela||Akshunna Tyagi|
|Hector Ramirez||Vinit Rai||Jonathas Cristian|
|Lalhrezuala Sailung||Paul Ramfangzauva||CVL Remtluanga|
|Lalruatthara||Thoiba Singh||Jerry Mawihminghthanga|
|Sahil Panwar||Liridon Krasniqi||Nandhakumar Sekar|
|Sebastian Thangmuansang||Nikhil Raj|
Ins: Hector Ramirez, Lalruatthara, Javi Hernandez, Issac Vanmalsawma, Victor Mongil, Sebastian Thangmuansang, Aridai Cabrera, Nikhil Raj, Jonathas, Sahil Panwar, Liridon Krasniqi.
Outs: Rishabh Dobriyal, Diego Mauricio, Cole Alexander, Diawandou Diagne, George D’Souza, Jacob Tratt, Manuel Onwu.
Squad Strength: 27
Verdict: Odisha FC have done well to add some experience with the signings of Javi Hernandez and Victor Mongil, the rest of the team still doesn’t inspire confidence. Apart from Jerry, Bora and Nandhakumar, the Indian players have been largely inconsistent. With the rest of the foreign signings also new to the league, Odisha will have a task on their hands to make the team tick as a unit.
SC East Bengal
|Arindam Bhattacharja||Adil Khan||Bikash Jairu||Antonio Perosevic|
|Suvam Sen||Akashdeep Singh||Loken Meitei||Balwant Singh|
|Sankar Roy||Daniel Gomes||Mohammad Rafique||Daniel Chukwu|
|Franjo Prce||Wahenbam Luwang||Naorem Singh|
|Hira Mondal||Jackichand Singh||Siddhant Shirodkar|
|Joyner Lourenco||Amir Dervisevic||Subha Ghosh|
|Raju Gaikwad||Amarjit Singh Kiyam||Thngkhoisem Haokip|
|Saikhom SIngh||Darren Sidoel|
|Sarineo Fernandes||Lalrinliana Hnamte|
|Tomislav Mrcela||Romeo Fernandes|
Ins: Arindam Bhattacharja, Semboi Haokip, Romeo Fernandes, Akashdeep Singh, Songpu Singsit, Joyner Lurenco, Daniel Gomes, Sarineo Fernandes, Lalrinliana Hnamte, Tomislav Mrcela, Siddhant Shirodkar, Darren Sidoel, Amir Dervisevic, Subha Ghosh, Naorem Singh, Jackichand Singh, Adil Khan, Amarjit Singh, Antonio Perosevic, Franco Prce.
Outs: Yumnam Singh, Rana Gharami, CK Vineeth, Callum Woods, Asheer Akhtar, Sehnaj Singh, Surchandra Singh, Jacques Maghoma, Lalramchullova, Narayan Das, Debjit Majumder, Sarthak Golui, Bright Enobakhare, Anthony Pilkington, Harmanpreet Singh, Aaron-Amadi Holloway, Milan Singh, Brandon V, Gurtej Singh, Girik Khosla, Matti Steinmann, Mirshad Michu, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Md Rafique, Eugenson Lyngdoh, Danny Fox.
Squad Strength: 32
Verdict: After the turmoil in the off-season, SC East Bengal have once again had to scramble to make their squad and the result is a heavily bloated squad with a lot of players who have either been in really poor form or are past their best. The entire foreign contingent is new which is not going to make their task any easier. Another tough season awaits SC East Bengal.